Mr. Airplane, a Former Movie Projectionist
Written/Photo by Ching-Wei LIN / Translation by Li-Yi Chen
Mr. Airplane was a movie projectionist in Tainan when he was young, just like Alfredo in Cinema Paradiso. I met him a few years ago when I was the photographer for his first Human Library event. He was a born story-teller, capable of giving very structured and fun details of his life experiences. What I remembered the most was that the co-speaker of that day was a filmmaker, who simply just handed the microphone to Mr. Airplane after giving the introduction speech for the audience to hear more about Mr. Airplane’s life.
When I arranged to take his pictures at his place this time, we agreed on meeting early at 6 am so that he could get to neighboring schools and metro station exits early enough to sell The Big Issue to the people going to school or work. His place looked bigger than what an average homeless person would rent, with a small balcony at the front and an elevator for him to move around more easily. I asked him about the rent, he said it wasn’t expensive; the landlord offered him a discount because the previous tenant, an old man, passed away inside. That didn’t bother him at all. I didn’t ask much about what happened to that previous tenant. If he didn’t mind, neither should I. That was my first time taking pictures of such kind of place, and I just went with the flow.
While walking with him, we passed by a bus stop, and he suddenly said he wanted to stop and sit for a while. I asked him whether he was tired from walking, and he said no, it was because he would usually stop and help check if the bus was coming for a visually-impaired student who often arrived at the bus stop around that time. It seemed like being in a challenging situation like this helped him see more people in need than we did.
Along the way, we chatted about people that we mutually knew, and he finally realized that I was the one who took pictures of his first Human Library event. He told me about those who he liked or did not like, and how he knew whether a person could get along well with him after a few sentences into the conversation. I shared with him the reasons for me to start shooting pictures for the homeless. He said he thought volunteers were all great people, and he appreciated those who had helped him.
When I’m talking to homeless individuals, I don’t really think of them as homeless. For me, they’re just like any other people who I can become friends with (or not).