LIFE MAGAZINE
60 PICTURES THAT CHANGED US FOREVER
Still photography has the power not to stop time, but to stop us. We study a picture and learn things we never imagined knowing. We feel emotions we never touched before. And sometimes, after looking at an image, we realize that we will never be the same again.
October 1996

Still photography has the power not to stop time, but to stop us. We study a picture and learn things we never imagined knowing. We feel emotions we never touched before. And sometimes, after looking at an image, we realize that we will never be the same again.


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"We're going to get the hell out of this lifestyle and never look back. “ DEAN DAMM, 1987

The homeless are all around us, but when we see them, most of us too quickly look away. When we ask, What can I do? we too often mean, Please, don't ask me to do anything. They challenge our notion of community, our sense of charity and the assumption of invulnerability that helps most of us accept the risks of daily life. Especially troubling, though less visible than the lone wanderers, are homeless families. When children are cast adrift, the future comes unmoored. How can we rope them in? As a step toward finding out, Mary Ellen Mark and writer Anne Fadiman spent a week in 1987 with the Damms, a Colorado family of four who arrived flat broke in California and drifted downhill from there. The article exposed the cruel obstacles that kept Dean and Linda Damm from making headway, despite their energy and optimism--the bureaucratic foul-ups, the scarcity of day care, the Catch-22s (a job applicant with no address can't be hired; a would-be tenant must have a job), the sheer bad luck. But it was the look in the kids' eyes, and the bleak ugliness of their transient world, that moved readers to action. They showered the Damms with aid: $9,000, used cars, toys, furniture, job offers. Yet, the outpouring did little more than demonstrate the stubbornness of the family's problems. Eight years later, LIFE sent Mark with reporter Barbara Maddux to visit the Damms again. The windfall had long since been squandered. Now Dean and Linda had two more children and a soul-ravaging drug habit, and Linda's daughter Crissy had accused her stepfather of fondling her. This time, Mark's photos told a tale of utter hopelessness, and the text raised a new question: What to do when kids must be saved from their parents?

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