Julie, 18, stood in the lobby of the Ambassador Hotel, barefoot, pants unzipped, and an eight-day-old infant in her arms. She lived in San Francisco’s SRO district, a neighborhood of soup kitchens and cheap rooms. Her room was piled with clothes, overfull ashtrays and trash. She lived with Jack, who had given her AIDS, and father of her first baby, Rachel.
Her first memory of her mother is getting drunk with her at 6 and then being sexually abused by her stepfather. She ran away at 14 and became a drug addict at 15. Living in alleys and crack dens, and bunked with more dirty old men than she cared to count. “Rachel,” Julie said, “has given me a reason to live.”
San Francisco, California 1993.
I first met Julie on January 28, 1993. For the next 21 years I have photographed Julie Baird and her family’s complex story of poverty, AIDS, drugs, multiple homes, relationships, births, deaths, loss and reunion. Following Julie from the streets of San Francisco to the woods of Alaska. By 2002, Julie had given birth to five children: Rachel, Tommy, Jordan, Ryan and Jason Jr. All were taken from her by the State of California. She had “stolen” one newborn from the hospital so he wouldn't be taken. A stunt that cost Julie and her partner, Jason, time in jail. In 2008, Julie gave birth to her sixth child, Elyssa, the only one they were able to keep.