I made this image in the 1980s and today, in 2023, the language used in the title is worthy of reconsideration. Societal and my ideas on subjectifying and language have certainly evolved, but I remain caught in a peculiar state of questioning. Many people have selected this image in the past and it adorns their walls. They cherish and have formed a relationship with the white faced man I came upon in Nepal. Even so, should the title be changed?
In my work as a humanitarian photographer and in my mind as I look upon his tender face and quiet repose, I no longer refer to him as a beggar. My intention is always to see people not as the flat language used to define them—poor, old, big, tiny, an immigrant, a slave—but as whole, dignified, beloved individuals. People are not slaves; they are enslaved; people are not beggars; they are poor. Essentially and universally, people I meet on my trips around the world have remarkable spirit and demonstrate astonishing ability to survive, regardless of their circumstances or words that so narrowly refer to them.
Because of the disparity between classes and the extreme poverty that exists in his country, relying on the community for life sustaining support is sometimes a necessity. Notably, reciprocity is an element of his need, because giving to someone in need earns the giver alms and blessings that are essential to the karmic cycle of life. This man was able to pull himself along on a board, dress and adorn himself with honor and present a small bowl for receiving coins. He is a member of a community and offers to passers-by an opportunity to give and thus enable their own lives. The relationship is symbiotic and in that, we are all one step closer to unity.