Monday, February 14, 2011

5 Questions with Teun Voeten, author of Tunnel People


What is the book all about, for those who don't know?

The book is an in depth portrait of a group of underground homeless people that were living in a rail road tunnel under Manhattan. I describe how they became homeless, their daily lives, their dreams and hopes for the future. I tried to be as honestly as possible without sensationalizing or romanticizing the issues.

What was the most interesting part about putting the book together?

Being original an anthropologist, I actually lived, worked and slept for 5 months with the tunnel people. I helped them collect empty cans, we cooked over open fires, we had a lot of parties and of course, extremely interesting conversations.

What did you learn from the tunnel people?

However dire your circumstances, however poor and downtrodden you are, the most important is not to see yourself as a victim. Make the best of what you have and keep up your dignity. A lot of tunnel people succeeded in doing so. Very admiring.

Which personality you cover in the book was most intriguing?

Bernard, who was nickname "Lord of the Tunnel. Not only was he very intelligent, but also outrageously funny and totally politically incorrect about his fellow homeless tunnel dwellers. Also, he was a great cook.

What's next for you?

I am working on a photo book on the drug violence in Mexico. A very difficult subject, but I think the current disintegration of Mexico, the total impunity and all pervasive corruption are very alarming developments that can have repercussions on a global scale.

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