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John Loengard and Dick Stolley at Life magazine assigned me to photograph a story on street children in America. Young kids were deserting their families and homes to wander the country and live on the street. This was a relatively new phenomenon in the early 1980s. The magazine decided that this story should be done in Seattle. At that time, Seattle was voted America’s most livable city. John felt that if the story were done in New York or Los Angeles the readers would not be surprised, because they are cities known as tough and violent.
In May of 1983, I traveled to Seattle. The writer and I immediately heard that all the kids hung out on Pike Street. We were able to make our contacts there. On Pike Street, we learned where the kids squatted at night, what they did during the day, and how they got their drugs. We realized that most of the girls and boys were surviving by prostitution.
I first met Tiny in the parking lot of a club called the Monastery. Most of the street kids could not afford to pay the cover charge and many were underage. They used to make their own club in the Monastery’s parking lot. They would run from car to car, drink, do drugs, and have their own party. One Friday night at the Monastery a taxi pulled up, and Tiny and a girlfriend stepped out.
Tiny was an extraordinary-looking child. She was only 13 and indeed very tiny. She was dressed like a grown-up. I tried to talk to her, but she thought I was the “police” and ran away. I found out that she occasionally lived with her mother, and when she wasn’t living with her mother, she survived on the streets as a child prostitute. I found her the next day at her mother’s house.
Tiny has been a friend and a continuous photographic focus ever since. She still has the rare quality of being totally at ease and oblivious of the camera.
This photograph was taken several months after I first met Tiny. My husband, Martin, returned to Seattle to make Streetwise, a film about street kids in which Tiny is the main character. This photograph was taken during his final days of shooting. It was Halloween, and Tiny had pieced together her costume. In her own words, she wanted to look “like a French whore.”