This is the second in a series of short portraits by Clay Jones introduced on April 11. The stories of the men and women Jones has known and photographed over many years are told here in Jones’ words. This week someone else who has known Louis Dudley, the subject, weighs in as well.
I have known “Frenchy” for close to 20 years. I have photographed him for 15. He was one of the first models. Before that I always gave him clothes and food. When I started photographing him he had this way of posing without even asking him. He automatically goes into these artistic poses. I find that with a lot of the models. It must be part of that lifestyle. I feel they are honored by the whole process. It gives them a little dignity. What is interesting about Louis is on occasion he has hugged me when I have given him something. He seems truly grateful. It’s touching. He has always been in a similar state to where he is now. There may have been times when he was cleaner or had better clothes.
I had seen Louis Dudley around his usual haunts of Frenchtown and the area between the Catholic church and the Asfour Store on the waterfront for quite a while, but we didn’t interact much until I noticed for a few weeks that he was having a problem with a leg ulcer. I am not a medical or mental health professional, but in my layman’s opinion life was hard enough for someone who is homeless and appeared to have mental health and/or addiction problems, without the additional challenge of losing a leg. As Mr. Dudley may be the dirtiest person I have ever met, I covered my passenger seat with a towel, grabbed a change of clothes and went looking for him for a trip to the hospital.
When we reached the hospital, the staff required that Mr. Dudley get cleaned up before entering, so the change of clothes came in very handy. He was treated and released, and we then had a weekly/biweekly follow-up at the clinic to inspect his wound and change bandages. As his sleeping on the sidewalk and complete lack of bathing quickly erased the hose shower at the hospital, getting him into the clinic became an adventure on its own. Thanks to the wonderful staff at RLS, we could come in at the end of the shift after all other patients for that office had been seen. Because Mr. Dudley’s presence would completely clear the waiting room at the clinic, we would wait outside until the nurse was ready for us, and dash in, offending as few people as possible. After a few weeks of treatment, Mr. Dudley’s leg was healed and I returned to just being another guy who slips him a few dollars now and then.
A person who knows him as Frenchy told me Dudley used to hang on Raadetts Gade and clean up around Crazy Cow, who would feed him and let him wash up. But when Crazy Cow closed, he slipped from being groomed, homeless and mentally ill to filthy, homeless, and mentally ill.
Editor’s Note: Jones has not been paid for this project; instead he asks that donations be made to Alternative Art Alliance http://www.sevenminusseven.org/, which is the 501(c)(3) charitable entity associated with sevenminusseven.