The Street Recyclers of Banker’s Hill

I wanted to write something quickly about the genesis behind “The Street Recycler of Banker’s Hill,” a body of work that had arrested my studio space for over a year.

In January of 2012 , I moved to Downtown San Diego. I rented a small apartment and moved in with my drawing table, guitars, clothing, book collection and about 300 pieces of art. It looked like I had robbed a gallery. The funny thing was I had not painted in several years.

In my new ‘home,’ I spent a large portion of my time reflecting on what that word actually meant. What is a home? And, is it the people or the items within that make it so?

I had previously lived near the ocean waves. Yet, after failing to ‘feel’ what i had wanted to feel when moving to California only two years earlier, I decided what i was missing was teeth. ‘Teeth’ as in grit, as in metal, as in dirt and grime.

I had wanted a landscape with ‘teeth’ and Banker’s Hill was it. If you’re lucky, the planes will only lightly scare you as they pass about 75 yards overhead. You’re right between Little Italy and the farmer’ market, the color of Hillcrest, the culture of downtown and then, the activity from the walkers, runners and workout groups gathering within the green landscape of Balboa Park.

What I wasn’t expecting to discover was the 10,000 or so homeless men and women living and working. And, they were my neighbors.

One day, I was driving from my home on 1st Avenue to the beach when I saw a man crossing the road pushing a huge buggy flanked by plastic bags and buckets tied to the side of his cart. My camera was with me and I had a sudden urge to speak to the gentleman.

The OG 'canner,' Loyd, photo by Josh Hunter

The OG ‘canner,’ Loyd, photo by Josh Hunter

Trash bags tied off, photo by Josh Hunter

Trash bags tied off, photo by Josh Hunter


Flipping the car around, I parked and walked a weird L-shaped path to cut him off and not appear like a stalker. Loyd was my first introduction into the life of the ‘canners,’ or, the street recyclers of Banker’s Hill.

In a few short months, the stories and tales I was to hear from the men and women I met had me painting and drawing with a fury. I was up late and up early to spend every free moment painting their stories. Urban portraiture and my own blend of illustration, photo-realism and a mild flare of street hard had me arrive at a new body of work that I am still working on to this day.

I’m not yet sure how I will present this collection to the public. I have many ideas and continue to sift through the possibilities distinctly aware an answer is somewhere close and around the bend.

Never would I have thought that someone who seemingly has so little would become my catalyst for picking the brush back up. To say I am grateful seems clich̩ and poorly simple. It has taught me to recognize the value in the places where so many often overlook it. In the streets of Banker’s Hill live the homeless canners. They are the gold miners of our day and they disappear and reappear like urban wildlife. Yet I do not say that to be derogatory in any way. There is a beauty in what they do and how they do that still mesmerizes me. It will wake me up at dawn to grab a camera at the first sounds of glass clinking. I honor and respect their work ethics and I have been pulled into a world that ignited my imagination once again.

Here’s to the dreamers…

The Buggy Ride, photo by Josh Hunter

The Buggy Ride, photo by Josh Hunter


Parachute Factory Mural