Shoot for Louise

Weather:

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Ever since she has been young, Louise has had an interest in the weather, to the point where she would like to go to university to study the weather in particular tornadoes as they have a strong interest over her.

In my image, I created an image in which we have someone’s back to the camera whilst they watch the tv, which has the weather channel showing (but blurred.)

Buddhism:

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One of the things she has taken up in her life is Buddhism due to how it is such a peaceful religion (to her) in which it allows her to understand life a little bit better, and keeps her calm in the more stressful moments in her life.

For my image, I created it to someone meditating in the middle of the street, to represent how Buddhists go about to put themselves into a calmer state of mind.

Travel Agent:

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One of the things she would like to do if she has the time is go around the world and travel. Not only would she like to go to America to visit the weather institutions sites, but also to where Buddhism is practiced as she would like to meet those who practice it all the time.

For my image, I made it simple by going up to a random travel agent shop and taking an image from the front which included flight prices and other deals as well in the window.

Shoot for John

Married:

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John was married happily before the business that he was in with his business was collapsed due to the recession. From that moment onwards, everything went downhill, in which his marriage collapsed to where he got divorced. However he still maintains contact with his ex wife and daughter.
For this image, I made it very simple yet effective by showing a wedding ring around a bit of string being held in a hand. This was to symbolise the fact that he isn’t unhappy with what happened and still treasures those memories.

The Church:

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The Church was a place that helped Dan to find places to sleep and eat, in which if he didn’t have this, he wouldn’t have known what to do when he was eventually homeless. So he is thankful for the help they gave to him when it was needed.

For this image, I positioned myself low down so it looked like I was sitting on the ground, and to the left I had a church and straight ahead was a path leading to wherever. This was to show that the Church was there for him and could give him a way, where the other could have led to anywhere.

Teach English – Bangkok, Dehli:

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When he was younger, John travelled to Indonesia to teach English in which he said it was one of the greatest experiences he has ever had and would wish to do it again at some point just so he could experience the different people and land.
In my image, I created a scene in which we have someone on the ground reading a travel brochure on Indonesia, highlighting the interest of wanting to go back there again.

Travelling:

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Not only does he want to go back to Indonesia, but John also at some point would like to travel the world more as there is so much on offer there, and it would be a dream of his to experience some more of the world. But only when there would be a bit more stability in his life.

SO for my image, I had someone wearing a travel backpack leaving an alleyway towards the middle of the street showing that he is on his way to go travelling.

Job application – Landscaper:

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When he was with his wife, John not only owned a carpeting business but also did some labouring jobs as well. He said he is currently looking for jobs, even though it is hard with no fixed address or bank, but ideally he would like a job in landscaping at some point.

For my image, I used depth of field to my add vantage here by having a low shot of someone filling in a job form, with only the words “landscaping” in focus for the viewer.

NHS:

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Finally, John spoke nothing of praise for the NHS in helping him with his depression and battle with drink after everything went wrong. That was one of the lowest points in his life, yet they were able to help him turn it all around to where he hasn’t touched any alcohol since.
So for my image, I kept it very simple to where I found a building that said it was a healthcare surgery and made a simple portrait shot of it.

Shoot for second Gary

Broken Needles:

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This is one of the strongest images throughout the whole project, as it depicts the story in which Gary broke free of his use of heroin abuse and started on his way to get clean.
For this, to show that he had broken free of his addiction, I got two syringes and filling up one with what looks like blood, I smashed the other to show that he had given it up.

Beer cans:

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Drinking is now part of Gary’s life, and even though he slowly become possibly addicted to it, it is part of the social life he has become accustomed too. However, it is something that he is trying to cut down on.
So for this image, I grabbed a couple of beer bottles and cans and placed them together on the ground, with the can crushed to show that he is trying to beat it.

Smoking:

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Again, like the drinking, smoking has become part of Gary’s social life. He doesn’t have the money to afford to buy them, but he always asks people going past if he can have one, in which he says most actually do stop and give him one. It isn’t healthy, but it does show that people do care.

The image I made depicts a range of cigarette butts on the floor to show how that smoking is a major part in his life, but also a way of social interaction with others.

Fire Exit:

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Due to the leg ulcers sustained on his legs from his drug abuse, Gary can’t sleep in hostels or in a room due to the smell that emits from his legs, and his self-consciousness from what others may be saying. So, he tends to sleep around the back of a restaurant near the fire exit because it is a safe area that provides cover for him.
For this shot, I went at night to where he said the fire exit was, and took a simple shot of the area that he lives in to give a bit on context of how his previous identity is making him live at the moment.

Shoot for first Gary

Red Nose:

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This was an interesting picture for me to make, as the story behind this was that he has 7 children, all whom he is proud off. And each year, he always notates to the Red Nose cause because not only is it something he wants to do, but it is also to help the children of the future as well. I think this really struck me, as it was quite surreal to hear someone that was homeless giving money to a Charity.
So for this image, I took the picture of the nose that he had with him on the ledge of a shop.

Tattoos:

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On his body, Gary has a number of tattoos, but the one that he seemed to talk the most about was the one of his ex-wife who put him into prison. To him it is a reminder of the life that he had with her, and that he will always remember those memories, even with the things she did to him.
So for this, he held out his arm for me whilst I took a picture of the tattoo running along his arm.

Bracelets:

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The bracelets on his arms hold a special meaning to him as they remind him of all the travelling he used to do when he was younger. He kept on mentioning his watch which he got in Egypt and how it is now broken and he can’t go get it fixed, or if he does it will be too expensive. Each bracelet has an individual meaning to him, in which he is reluctant to get rid of it.

Again, for this he held out his wrist for me to take a picture so that I could show off what these items exactly were.

Islam:

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Gary found Islam a long time ago after he went searching for the meaning to life. He tried a variety of religions, all of which failed to help him answer his questions. However when he found Islam, it was the one that made everything click together. Since then, he ahs always been devout, and even though he doesn’t pray every day, he does it when he needs it for comfort and support, and doing as much good as he can.

For this image, I found it hard how I could represent Islam for Gary in an appropriate manner. SO after some deliberation, I decided to get a Quran and place it wide open on a windowsill for me to take a picture off it.

There were a few other pictures I considered using, such as the beer cans near where he was sitting, as he said he needs to keep drinking to help him out in the day. However I decided against this shot because I felt it was too “typical” for what you would expect to see, and I wanted to show off stuff that was more positive for Gary and had a deeper meaning to his identity.

Storytelling

Storytelling can be an extremely powerful tool if it is used right; however it all depends on how the stories are told to those that are listening, as the way that they come across can change the entire story. As photographers, we are able to choose what we get to report to the viewers, especially if we have a certain intention or motive that we want to get across. This isn’t a new theory as such, as with all projects there is a line of thinking that is made in order for the photographer to make their point.

What we have to bear in mind is the difference between an outsider telling a story, compared to an insider telling a story. This is an important point to make, as the relation that we have to the subject is very critical due to how it can affect our representation of the subject and the stories that we will tell afterwards.

Abigail Solomon-Godeau explores the inside/outside position in photography. She uses Diane Arbus as an example of someone that can be considered as an ‘outside’ photographer due to how she objectifies people and has a lack of empathy within her work. We could consider Arbus’ approach bad due to the distance between her as the photographer and the subject. But then I think Arbus’ work is in the grey area as she did now these people for who they were, she just photographed them in the manner that anyone else would take pictures, hence why some may see her work as alienated. So what is the good side then of the insider? We can logically presume then that as an insider, you would be in a position of partaking, engagement and privileged knowledge.

I think this is extremely relevant for the type of photography I am aiming to be taking; we can’t just go up and take a picture of someone who is homeless because it is dehumanising to them as an individual, but also it is an unfair representation as well. Martha Rosler who authored the essay In, Around and Afterthoughts (On Documentary Photography), viewed outsider photography as a type of ‘victim photography’, something that can be linked with the stereotypical images we see of the homeless on Google. Rather, she suggests self-representation photography as a much better alternative due to the fact that it would empower the subject to represent themselves for how they want to be seen (a bit like Anthony Luvera’s work) and puts everyone on the same playing field.
However, we will still all be guilty of one problem, which is something I noted in the problem I had with Humans of New York, is that just by taking a pictures we are only seeing a partial and distorted view of the subject that is to be represented because we are only going on what we find engaging. This is why I have recorded the conversations I have had with each individual as it moves away from picking out the interesting points, but we can listen to the whole story and how it links in together.
Yes, for my work I will be picking out certain elements to base my images on but not because I am doing it just because it is ‘interesting’, but more so an element of the story being told, a visual aid as you could put it.

Rosler, M. (1981) ‘In, Around and Afterthoughts (On Documentary Photography)’ Rosler 3 Works, Halifax, N.S.: Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and DesignSolomon-Godeau, A. (1994) ‘Inside/Out (Public Information: Desire, Disaster, Document, Exhibition)’ Catalog. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. New York: Art Publishers, 49-62

Grayson Perry + Shahidul Alam

Grayson Perry is an English artist who is well known for his cross dressing and ceramic vases.
In 2014 he presented a documentary called “Who are you” which looked at fourteen different people. The idea behind this was to look at the identity of each individual with snapshots taken from the narratives of people’s lives.
What I found interesting about this was that in this television series, focusing on identity was important especially for my project because we all have a sense of ourselves that we know; yet we have an identity that is constantly changed by experience and circumstances that sometimes we have no control over.
With the homeless, they have an identity given to them by society, which they can’t escape from. They know that they aren’t like this identity, as they believe they are still the same person before everything happened. Yet their proper identity disappeared once socials one came into play.
Perry says that “for most of us, most of the time our identity works for us so we do not question it. But when it does not feel right, or is under threat, then we are suddenly made very aware of how central and vital our identity is.” I think this is an important thing to note, in that if the circumstances aren’t that bad the homeless will accept everything happily; it is only when things are bad they will realise how they have lost their old identity.

So what I have to realise is that when I’m talking to the homeless and making their story, I want to make their story based on their old identity that they still have, but is just hidden away.

This leads into another photographer I have been looking at called Shahidul Alam; he is a storyteller and photographer from Bangladesh who understood the impossibility of becoming an absolute insider to someone else’s story.
In a 2013 talk for Phonar, Alam states that, “The photographs taken at the time were taken by visiting photographers, usually white person photographers, who came over with a certain type of imagery” (Alam 2013). He puts the blame for wrong imagery on them due to how they capture only the extremely emotional events such as poverty. Rather Alam wants to give these people the opportunity to represent themselves for whom they are, whilst telling their own stories so that the narrative is the original only.

To me this is a very important issue to address as it highlights the fact that when we are taking images, we can manipulate the story to suit what we want to make. As image-makers, this is fine as long as we don’t change anything that could alter the meaning of the identity or story. The original is there for a reason; with my interviews with the homeless they have been honest and open with me, so I have to respect what they have told me when making the images by keeping it close to home.

Internet Archive, (2013) Shahidul Alam : Jonathan Worth : Internet Archive available from <https://archive.org/details/ShahidulAlamWorth&gt; [14 November 2014]

National Portrait Gallery,. ‘Grayson Perry’. N.p., 2014. Web. 4 Mar. 2015.

Shahidul Alam: Photographer/Writer/Curator,. ‘Shahidul Alam: Photographer/Writer/Curator’. Web. 4 Mar. 2015.

The Independent,. ‘Grayson Perry: Who Are You?, Channel 4 – TV Review: Potter Asks Age Old Question With The Help Of Chris Huhne And Rylan Clarke’. N.p., 2014. Web. 4 Mar. 2015.

Wollaston, Sam. ‘Grayson Perry: Who Are You Review – It Takes A Real Artist To Get To The Heart Of Chris Huhne’. the Guardian. N.p., 2014. Web. 4 Mar. 2015.

Refinement of Idea

So after my interviews, I decided to talk with my lecturer based on the feedback I had received. I was told that so far, even though I had interesting stories coming out, it seemed like the questions weren’t following on the theme of giving a fair representation. So far all of my questions seemed to always have negative connotations about them (e.g. what led to this situation etc). By doing this, it meant that I was going down a path that would only give very specific responses that reduced down the complex identity.

This was the one thing that I wanted to avoid in my work, as these questions sometimes fuel the stereotypical agenda in the media about how we view the homeless. There is nothing bad about being specific, but what I really needed to do was have a much more open approach and look at every aspect in life (such as the good things, what makes their day etc).

However, after speaking and discussing the idea about the types of questions and the narratives being answered, what we narrowed it down to was that I am looking at a very complex identity that needs to be addressed properly.
Through my images, the chances of giving back the subjects their full identity is very slim, which is something that I have accepted. Being homeless is part of the complex identity, but it hasn’t been one that these people have made for themselves; rather it has been an identity forced upon themselves by factors out of their control most of the time.

Obviously it is slightly naive to say that the images can give them back their identity; there is much more we can do as individuals to give it back to them (talking to them, changing our views etc). What I want to show in my images is that there is more than what meets the eye to each person.

So what my approach has to be now is that I re-listen to the interviews that I have conducted (and to have more as well) and focus on the smaller details in their lives. These smaller details are all keys to the previous identities each person has held and is now in the past. By focusing on the objects, I will address the fact there is more to their identity then being homeless. Their whole identity is complex in which homelessness is part of it, yet they have other identities for us to remember as well.

What I must stress is that focusing on the objects, I won’t be striving to give a negative image towards these people, nor will I want to give them an overly positive identity. This is because neither one will be right (unless it actually is needed). Rather, I want to give them back the identity that has been forgotten. The identity that they have by society, even legit, is only a small part of them and they deserve to have their other selves being shown as well.