Back in 2003, when I was 19 years old, I decided to make a photographic documentary about rough-sleeping homeless people in Brighton, England. The issue of homelessness was something that I wanted to address because I sympathise with the plight of homeless people and the difficulties that they face in their day-to-day lives. I felt appalled that so many people were sleeping rough on the streets of my hometown – that these people could be pushed aside and ignored by society – so I wanted to create a compassionate, yet honest, photographic essay about homelessness that could help restore public interest in this serious problem. The following project description is based on my notes from that time.
It seems to me that society has become somewhat desensitised to the plight of homeless people. Lots of people just don’t want to hear about it, so they ignore these marginalised and often desperate individuals and pretend they aren’t there. This apathy towards the homeless might stem from the fact that many rough-sleeping homeless people are addicted to alcohol or drugs. In some respect, I think it is this addiction that kills any compassion society might have for them – people think they are just drunkards or druggies and therefore deem them undeserving of help. So, because society sees homelessness as largely self-inflicted, the sight of a homeless person bedding down for the night in a doorway, or asking for change on a street corner, doesn’t provoke the sort of reaction that it should. It doesn’t help that the Internet is awash with thousands of images of homeless people sleeping in doorways and on park benches – images taken from a distance that reveal almost nothing about the individual being photographed, or the struggle he or she faces on a daily basis. I wanted to avoid taking these types of images, which lack compassion and only serve to reinforce stereotypes. Homeless people aren’t dangerous animals that need to be photographed from a distance while they sleep; they are human beings who are having a rough time and need help.