24.7: AAA Currency Exchange & Bail Bonding

I had some sort of an idea what I thought I was getting when I took on a project at AAA Currency Exchange in downtown Raleigh. I had my notions and my expectations: all of the things I thought I would see, and all of the things that I thought I knew. Take a step beyond what you see from the street and all of those notions and expectations are gone, and you find yourself in a world that you had no idea existed. Past the bulletproof glass at the top of the stairs and through the double magnetically locked doors lies a twenty-four hour a day operation of people, money, and work. The world surrounding a twenty-four check cashing and bail bonding operation is seldom seen, and more rarely understood.

This essay sought to tell the story of the people who live and work at the business, as well as the general clientele. It isn't a sensationalist take on a "treacherous underworld" – that story has been told before. Rather, it's a depiction of the people whose lives depend on this industry. I wanted to take the story of what was happening beyond public view and bring that out for all to see. These are views and images of what you didn't expect to see, and things being observed from a different frame of view to provide a different take. To so many people this is so far removed from their life, and it's the goal of documentary to bring that story to them.

The essence of documentary is to bring those stories out to people, to tell the stories that they didn't know were untold. That is the stuff that is so rare and so powerful; the stories that you didn’t expect to see -- the stories that you had no idea were there.

Adam Attarian
December, 2004