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Mumble Street Stories

Mumble Street is an ongoing project my friend - Gavin Mahaley - and I are trying to get off the ground. We want to create first person portrait-stories around a given category. We started with immigration, moved to  musicians, but lately we have narrowed our focus those with student loan debt. It has been stop and start as we are still trying to figure out a way to monetize it. If you have any suggestions please reach out. We are passionate about story telling and particularly student loans. You can find the project for now on Instagram at MumbleStreetStories.

Mumble Street Stories: Through first person interviews and portrait photography Mumble Street Stories celebrates people. We are about the story and creating community out of shared experience.

Student Loan Debt

Student Loan Debt

A story on student loan debt by an anonymous participant. Mumble Street Stories asked "How would your life be different if you did not have a student loan payment?" This response is, unfortunately, heartbreaking but not uncommon:

"Without the loan payments...oh man, well they are deferred at the moment so there is no immediate financial stress but I know the loan amount is only getting bigger with compounded interest. But if I didn't have a loan at all...I would be able to give back to the world in a sincere and meaningful way, take care of my family and help them to better see and celebrate the world, it really is a beautiful place outside of your phone or laptop. One of the biggest personal obstacles is that I feel like I have zero creative freedom. The pressure to work and make money is so great I cannot enjoy my natural senses of creativity and curiosity for risking failure is risking money. I am not as happy as I know I can be and in turn I think it negatively influences my family, our children, my marriage. We cannot save anything and literally live mnth to month with sometimes $20 or less in the bank between paychecks. It is depressing, embarrassing. My friends don't know. Our kids are growing fast and need their own space but we cannot afford it so we make do. We try to provide for them opportunities but it's hard because everything costs more than we can afford. My job allows me to spend a lot of time with them which is more than probably most dads can say and that is not lost on me, I am very appreciative for that. It's a double-edged sword though because I have them around a lot I cannot get a lot of work done, especially in the summer. It can be very hard to focus, very distracting. Nothing gets my whole attention - the kids, the laundry, my work. It's a mess. It's my mess. I owe so much and earn so little I cannot make the minimum of any payment plan offered so I defer. It's disgusting. It just keeps mounting, almost like I can hear it growing sometimes. I fear it is causing a riff too wide to cross in the more sensitive areas of my life. I fear I may have wasted the best of the future for my kids and that keeps me up at night.

Student Loan Debt

Student Loan Debt

There is a sense of shame and helplessness to some who have a lot of student loan debt. Often the subjects do not want their name or face used so I try to photograph the location and perhaps the table or chair where they sat after we have finished. This was in a local coffee shop called Blue Kangaroo and the response was tough to hear. Mumble Street asked "How would your life be different without your student loans?"

 

The biggest difference, we can't save, we can't get to that next step. We owe almost $250,000. We have a three year old. We got married and thought "...at least we can have a kid!" At birth he was in the NICU for a long time with complications. My wife had birth issues as well and had to be hospitalized. They were in different hospitals. We had a lot of medical bills. A couple years later we had them paid off, then our son dislocated his elbow. Some of my government backed loans are at 8% interest! We just can't save and get to that next step. Sometimes I think if they were just $70,000 we'd be better off. I play the lottery with some guys at work but we always joke that even if we wona  million and had to share it none of us would be able to pay off our loans."

Student Loan Debt

Student Loan Debt

Kevin Palmer was kind enough to share his story about student debt with us. He says "I'm blessed to be able to pay it [the monthly payment] but the flip side to that is that everything I've paid up until now has been interest with a little bit of the principle. I've whittled my student loans down but after paying it for close to 20 years now I've basically only paid off twenty thousand of a sixty thousand dollar debt."

Immigration: Keyla Angell

Immigration: Keyla Angell

Keyla Angell had been in the US for a few days when we met. She was gracious and trusting enough to tell us about the death of her husband, the separation from her son and her hopes for the future. She is a positive force for the future and one we are lucky to have in our community.

Immigration: Patricia Mistikawi

Immigration: Patricia Mistikawi

Patricia is originally from the Netherlands and emigrated to the US as an adult. She now lives with her husband in Portland, OR and has two kids. She is pursuing a medical degree. The following five pictures were made in her home in Portland where she shared her concerns for the future, her experiences in the past with adjusting to a new culture and showed us some pictures of her family back in the Netherlands.

Immigration: Patricia Mistikawi

Immigration: Patricia Mistikawi

Immigration: Patricia Mistikawi

Immigration: Patricia Mistikawi

Immigration: Patricia Mistikawi

Immigration: Patricia Mistikawi

Immigration: Patricia Mistikawi

Immigration: Patricia Mistikawi

Immigration: Ocko Family

Immigration: Ocko Family

Heike Ocko is originally from Germany, her husband from Croatia. They now live in Portland, OR and have two children. We got to interview them in their home.

Immigration: Ocko Family

Immigration: Ocko Family

Immigration: Ocko Family

Immigration: Ocko Family

Immigration: Andy Taylor

Immigration: Andy Taylor

Andy Taylor is from England and is an IT specialist. He lives with his wife and two girls in Portland, OR. We shared beers and interviewed Andy in his kitchen.

Immigration: Andy Taylor

Immigration: Andy Taylor

Community: Farmer's Market

Community: Farmer's Market

Julie Toporowski stopped for a free portrait at the Sellwood Farmer's Market.

Community: Farmer's Market

Community: Farmer's Market

Katie Denooyer stopped for a free portrait at the Sellwood Farmer's Market.

Community: Farmer's Market

Community: Farmer's Market

Youssef Hamzaoui came over for a free portrait at the Sellwood Farmer's Market. He runs the hummus cart and while we were not paid in hummus I will say it was the most delicious I have ever had.

Community: Farmer's Market

Community: Farmer's Market

Stephanie Arrayan was a dear friend with a beautiful heart and huge smile and I miss her everyday.

Community: Farmer's Market

Community: Farmer's Market

Carol Craig is a distance runner! She runs regularly in our neighborhood and has completed numerous marathons!!

Community: Farmer's Market

Community: Farmer's Market

Suzanne Gall is a beautiful woman with a beautiful family. She shared with us her time and scary, earnest and beautiful story about her breast cancer diagnosis. She is doing great - smiling and healthy again!

Community: Farmer's Market

Community: Farmer's Market

Corey McAuliffe was curious as to what we were doing so popped in to our tent and agreed to sit for us. She was full of great energy and character.

Community: Free Lens

Community: Free Lens

Tori Harms as captured by a technique commonly known as "free lensing." It involves removing the lens from the body of your camera then bringing it back to the body and holding them up together but keeping them separate. The more you move it, tilt it, etc. the more the focus falls and moves. It is not easy but it is fun!!

Community: Free Lens

Community: Free Lens

Ben Wright as captured by a technique commonly known as "free lensing." It involves removing the lens from the body of your camera then bringing it back to the body and holding them up together but keeping them separate. The more you move it, tilt it, etc. the more the focus falls and moves. It is not easy but it is fun!!

Community: Free Lens

Community: Free Lens

Melissa Banks as captured by a technique commonly known as "free lensing." It involves removing the lens from the body of your camera then bringing it back to the body and holding them up together but keeping them separate. The more you move it, tilt it, etc. the more the focus falls and moves. It is not easy but it is fun!!

Community: Free Lens

Community: Free Lens

Finn Vollegraaf as captured by a technique commonly known as "free lensing." It involves removing the lens from the body of your camera then bringing it back to the body and holding them up together but keeping them separate. The more you move it, tilt it, etc. the more the focus falls and moves. It is not easy but it is fun!!

 Darin Moran as captured by a technique commonly known as "free lensing." It involves removing the lens from the body of your camera then bringing it back to the body and holding them up together but keeping them separate. The more you move it, tilt it, etc. the more the focus falls and moves. It is not easy but it is fun!!

Darin Moran as captured by a technique commonly known as "free lensing." It involves removing the lens from the body of your camera then bringing it back to the body and holding them up together but keeping them separate. The more you move it, tilt it, etc. the more the focus falls and moves. It is not easy but it is fun!!

Make Music Day: PDX Portraits

Make Music Day: PDX Portraits

This image is of the set up I arranged for some large format film portraits of musicians who played in part of Portland's Make Music Day. The white tent allowed for some flat lighting and simple background.

Make Music Day: PDX Portraits

Make Music Day: PDX Portraits

Chad Bandit was kind enough to sit for me after he performed at Make Music Day: PDX. When I asked him "Why music..?" he answered:

 

"It's my number one passion. I've been playing guitar since middle school. My first concert was Weezer and No Doubt, my sister drove me up from Hood River."

Make Music Day: PDX Portraits

Make Music Day: PDX Portraits

After playing his set at Make Music Day in Portland, Matt Schenk came agreed to sit for a portrait. When asked "Why music..?" this was his response:

 

"I play music because it is part of me, it is always there when I need it. I feel very connected to the messages that you can connect through that avenue. There is an indescribable magic that comes through participating in creative activities. It is one of those reasons for living and what makes life so special."

Make Music Day: PDX Portraits

Make Music Day: PDX Portraits

Noah Axe and his new daughter Jillian did not perform this year but is a musician and was walking buy so he stopped in:

 

"Music feels good and makes people move and dance. And for me music...my mom was and still is very musical. She encouraged me and it felt right. Over the years, I have played and taught drums, guitar and piano."

Make Music Day: PDX

Make Music Day: PDX

After playing her set at Make Music Day in Portland, Pam agreed for a quick portrait. When asked "Why music..?" this was her response:

 

"When I was nine years old I wanted to be an opera singer. So that was my musical introduction, musical theatre and all that good stuff. When we moved to Portland I got to hang out at the Tony Starlight Supper Club, got to do some stage stuff there - sing for your supper club nights, did the whole jazz thing there. Then I jumped on Craigslist and that's how we ended up with the whole El Diablitos."

Make Music Day: PDX

Make Music Day: PDX

Tony Guerrero of El Diablitos gave us a few minutes for a portrait and an interview. When asked "Why music..?" this was his reponse:

"My whole family were musicians on my dad's side...we discovered punk rock in the late 70's. We saw the Ramones play in front of city hall in San Francisco and that was it. We started a band, made a lot of noise in my mom's garage. There was a lot of energy around it then, we were really little kids - my brother was 12. We couldn't get into the clubs! But we were just making a lot of noise, a lot of energy. I still correlate to some of that now, that fervor, but it has segued into what I do now. I like the surfer sound, it's that old Duane Eddy...but punk rock music is what really started it all."