Living with mental illness

N0907LOU03A.JPG, originally uploaded by ©JL.

Lou Mullen has been cleaning the Norlin Library at the University of Colorado for over 10 years. The only time he doesn't make it to work is when the bus stops running because of weather.

Lou is a quiet man with a thick beard and long locks to his shoulders. He pauses once in a while to recount what he has done or still needs to do. Talking with slight hesitations, he says he is originally from New York. Wielding a broom he casually walks in and out of every restroom in the building, checking the fullness of trash bins and paper towel dispensers. Between his ventures into the toilets he pushes a small cart with an electric-yellow trash bag hanging empty. He moves straight through the halls of university students as they pass him almost unnoticed. It's as though he is in his own world.

Lou is a member of the Chinook Clubhouse. A program helping people with mental illness learn to manage their lives with the skills they need to work and live in the community. I didn't ask the history of his illness. How do you? I just decided to let him continue his direct focus on his job and be that fly on the wall. But I felt he was more aware of me and what I was doing than most people I photograph.

The following day I was shooting an assignment and Lou was walking up the sidewalk. I said hello and asked if he had seen his photo in the paper.

"I have a copy on me," he replied as though he was proud to have it yet willing to give it to me if I had asked for it.

1 comment:

Christopher Lawson said...

Nice graphic frame, Josh. Thanks for telling Lou's story as well.