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Picturing the Homeless, on Their Terms

Gary Clark doesn't call himself a photographer. But over the past few years, he's felt compelled to take pictures of homeless people — those "on the edge," he says. His work has brought a rare brand of celebrity to people used to living anonymously in harsh conditions.

Half a million members visit Clark's Web page, "Mashuga" — Yiddish for crazy — to see the images that result. Viewers from around the world post dozens of comments for each photo, creating a running subtext.

Clark returns to his subjects over time, updating their pictures and adding bits of biography. This interplay recently took a grave turn, when Paul Tagney, one of Clark's subjects in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Tagney's hospital stay and the photographs of his losing struggle against the illness raised sympathies in Wilkes-Barre that were echoed by Web visitors around the world.

Clark talks with NPR's Jennifer Ludden about creating an ongoing chronicle of lives that are often overlooked.

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Jennifer Ludden
NPR National Correspondent Jennifer Ludden covers economic inequality, exploring systemic disparities in housing, food insecurity and wealth. She seeks to explain the growing gap between socio-economic groups, and government policies to try and change it.