Revisiting The Metal Thieves

As I photographed the demolished remains of the old tuna cannery in San Francisco, I thought of the camp of homeless scrappers who I spent months following, visit my site: http://www.andrehermannphoto.com ‘urban ore: Life at camp 280’ for photos. I had been planning to do a follow-up story to get their feelings on the demolition of the cannery which served as a gold mine for them. After photographing the demolition site, I walked over to the camp to pay a visit. It was still early in the morning. My guess was no one would be out, but with these guys you’d never know. Walking into the camp, it seemed someone had cleaned it up a bit. Graffiti was painted over. The camp seemed a little less intimidating to walk into. Not seeing anyone, I decided to walk along the lagoon to photograph the cannery demolition site. As I walked along the pipe, I met a familiar face. Actually, it was one of the camp regulars, a crack/meth addict who was convinced that I was an undercover cop. Yet, this time he greeted me with a smile and remembered my name. I asked him how he had been, and if anyone was still around. The conversation became somewhat depressing and shocking. He was the only original regular left. I asked about steve, steve, and buhdro. According to this guy Both steves were now in jail. Buhdro had died. Surprised, I asked him how. He told me he had been found floating in the bay near the san mateo bridge. He said that one day he left camp and never came back. I asked how he knew buhdro was dead. He said someone from a homocide unit came by asking questions about the body.

Obviously, this information is not sound. And there’s really no way to prove any of it, without a lot of digging. All I could do was trust it, and ditch any idea I had of a follow-up story. I left the camp feeling a little down about the fate of the scrappers, the possibility of a follow-up story, and the demolition of the cannery. But that’s life. Everything has a cycle and I just happened to experience a few of them come full circle.


Steve #1, this guy seemed to want a better life. He would constantly ask to use my truck to take the drivers license test so he could get a job. He’s now in jail.

Steve #2, veteran scrapper, in jail.

Buhdro, I first met him as he and the two other steves were running out of the cannery one day to avoid the cops. He was found dead in the San Francisco Bay.

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