|Julie with her eldest daughter|
Writes Ms Padilla:
I first met Julie on February 28, 1993. Julie, 19, 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.I don't dare comment too much off the cuff on something so multi-layered. But I wanted to point you to it because it's not just a project about addiction and AIDS and inescapable poverty. It's about a child who wasn't adequately protected from abuse. Who grew up to have five of her own six children removed from her care by the state and eventually adopted. And into that comes a story of an opened adoption, a son who entered foster care at birth meeting his birth parents after his adoptive parents track them down through the photographer.
|Julie's son with his first dad|
Four of her other children won't have that chance.
Neither of my children were adopted from foster care, but there are elements of Julie's story that parallel parts of the complex history that led to one of their placements. Perhaps that is why I am not able to stop thinking about Julie as a child, her life in the margins, the children who were there with her, her son's first letter to her.
It is never not complicated.
* I'm conflicted about something that intimate being public, since her son is so young. I wonder how he will feel about that years from now. That said, the recording is undeniably moving.