In the spring of 2008, when DJ Stout proposed that our next issue of Pentagram Papers
focus on the plight of the homeless, the Dow was above 13,000 and the U.S. unemployment rate was below 6%. This choice of subject matter, however, proved sadly prescient. While the publication was in production, the world suffered the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
We have all seen the homeless on street corners holding hand-scrawled signs. Pentagram Papers 39
features signs from the personal collection of author and legendary Texas musician Joe Ely, photographed by Randal Ford, and a series of large format portraits of homeless people by Austin photographer Michael O’Brien. Ely wrote the foreword.
Joe Ely was homeless for eight years of his life after he jumped on a freight train headed out of Lubbock, Texas, when he was 17 years old. During his wanderings he kept a journal of musings, verses, songs and sketches. Because of his fascination with and compassion for the homeless men and women he encountered along the way, he began to pay them for their hand-written signs.
These signs, some of the most basic forms of graphic communication in our society today, combined with O’Brien’s unblinking black-and-white portraits, are a reminder that with a little bad luck we could easily find ourselves in similar straits—and that at times we can all use a helping hand. We encourage you to join us in supporting the charities we list here
or a local one of your choice.