all images Darcy Padilla
I came across the Julie Project last year and the images have been firmly planted in my mind ever since. I believe projects like this are why photography was invented- Darcy Padilla uses the tools of film and her camera to invite us into a world we would never have dared enter.
Padilla describes the series:
I first met Julie on February 28, 1993. Julie, 18, stood
in the lobby of the Ambassador Hotel, barefoot, pants
unzipped, and an 8 day-old infant in her arms. She lived
in San Francisco’s SRO district, a neighborhood of soup
kitchens and cheap rooms. Her room was piled with clothes,
overfull ashtrays and trash. She lived with Jack, father
of her first baby Rachael, and who had given her AIDS.
She left him months later to stop using drugs.
Her first memory of her mother is getting drunk with her
at 6 and then being sexually abused by her stepfather.
She ran away at 14 and became drug addict at 15. Living in
alleys, crack dens, and bunked with more dirty old men
than she cared to count.
For the last 18 years I have photographed Julie Baird’s
complex story of multiple homes, AIDS, drug abuse,
abusive relationships, poverty, births, deaths, loss
and reunion. Following Julie from the backstreets of
San Francisco to the backwoods of Alaska.
The images are heartbreaking, beautiful, occasionally hopeful, but ultimately a tender look into a life lost. It's one thing to admire the photography but when consideration is given to the personal cost Padilla must have paid in having a deep friendship with a woman as tragic as Julie, the series becomes a masterpiece. Padilla's love and sadness is palpable in each frame.
View the whole series here