NIEMAN STORYBOARD -- Jeff Schonberg is a professor of anthropology and documentary photographer at San Francisco State University. He and his research partner spent 10 years documenting the lives of homeless drug users on the streets of San Francisco. He has also worked on projects involving the illicit drug economy, HIV and youth violence in the neighborhood where he lives in Oakland.
Schonberg tells his students that the same parts of themselves they use to build relationships in other areas of their lives can also be used to earn access. He explains that people sometimes emphasize certain aspects of themselves — age, gender, marital status, common interests, political views and so on — to relate to others whether they realize it or not. For many, finding a baseline common ground is a natural way to engage with new people.