New Brunswick Photographer/Filmmaker/Journalist/Educator/Author

Homelessness

There is significant debate in the street photography community on the topic of photographing the homeless.

Some will say no one should ever photograph this community for any reason. Others seem to go out of their way to exploit this vulnerable population for humour, or sport.

I have been a street & documentary photographer for over 20 years. I shied away from photographing the homeless. My own personal ethic – try not to exploit, or take advantage, of the disadvantaged – dictated that these people were not valid subject matter for my photography.

The issue of homelessness is pervasive in most communities in North America and other parts of the world. Some places have taken progressive steps to try to minimise the impacts of homelessness with programs like Housing First.

Unfortunately, most cities and jurisdictions do little besides attempt to provide temporary shelter; if even that. Charitable and volunteer groups try to pick up the slack; however, they are limited in what they can do.

On Christmas 2017, my position changed. I came up with an idea to try to do what I could, using my photography, to hold those with the ability to effect change – politicians – to account. The idea is #nobodyshould. When I photograph and post a photo of a homeless person, I use the #nobodyshould hashtag to highlight what is wrong with the scene – not the person – and ask what politicians are planning to deal with the issue of homelessness.

As one person, there’s little I can do. Perhaps others will take up the #nobodyshould effort as well and build some momentum. This page will be a repository of my #nobodyshould moments.

I’ll begin with a story.

On a warm, spring day I was walking in Dundas Square in Toronto. Behind me, I heard some people yelling across the square. Not hostile yelling, just to be heard across the distance. I turned around and asked this fellow, “Hey, how come you’re sitting under an umbrella on such a nice day?” He replied, “I’m trying to get a tan!” I went over and asked if I could take his picture. He then invited me to sit down. We talked for about 20 minutes, then one of his buddies came over. The three of us talked for about another 15-20 minutes. At one point, they offered me some of their hooch – orange soda and isopropyl alcohol. I thanked them and declined. I went and bought them some lunch, thanked them for their time, shook their hands and went on about my day. It was a very informative and interesting discussion.

homelessness project
#nobodyshould be treated as lesser than simply because they’ve not been as fortunate as others
homelessness project
This gentleman’s dog was better fed and healthier than him. #nobodyshould have to make that kind of choice

On my first trip to Detroit to start my Wreck & Renewal project, I came upon this fellow within a few minutes of arriving in the city. He, a friend of mine, and I chatted for about 10 minutes. Despite their circumstances, some of the homeless people I’ve spoken with are the most optimistic people I’ve come across.

homelessness project
Read the text above. #nobodyshould have to live 21 days on the street, nevermind 21 years.

#Nobody should have to rely on wet, moldy clothing for protection from the elements.