The photograph above is of Stephen Kinghorn in Soho in 2016. A year after I took this photograph Stephen was dead aged only 39 having fallen ill on the streets in London.
From Outsiders, Manchester
“I grew up in children’s homes, I had abusive parents and I was abused as a child. From the age of 11, I was in and out of institutions and care homes all different ones in Stockport and in secure units. From the age of 13 I began sleeping on the streets, sleeping in the bin sheds on the Offerton Estate. I was running away from the care system. I coped by taking substances, first alcohol then cannabis, then whizz and heroin to numb the pain away”
Michelle, Outsiders Participant, audio testimony Manchester, 2019
You can make a difference
Across the UK there are around 320,000 people caught up in some form of homelessness, living hand to mouth on the street or in terrible quality accommodation not fit for human habitation.
When caught up in the frantic business of our day-to-day lives it is easy to pass by and forget that these are all people just like us, someone's son or daughter who has ended up falling on hard times. It could be any of us.
This project has been developed in partnership with the charity Shelter and other partners include The Big Issue, Inspiring Change Manchester and the charity Back on Track. The main themes for the project were developed following a series of discussions with people who have lived experience of homelessness. The charity partners will receive all of the creative outputs of the project royalty-free and will be able to use them for fundraising and raising awareness. A permanent archive of the photographs and audio testimony will be created to act as a legacy for the project for future researchers, and the objective is to develop a touring exhibition and a book to raise awareness across the UK of the multifaceted nature of the problem.
This project is called Outsiders - A Journey Through Homelessness, and through photography and audio testimony it aims to shine a light on the issues facing homeless people from their perspective. The project will amplify their voices while respecting their dignity and giving them control over how they are portrayed.
Following a series of discussion groups in 2019 which were made up of people with lived experience of homeless five main themes were developed for the project which are: entrenched rough sleepers, people in substandard housing, women's support groups, people in transition from homelessness to a stable home environment and homeless people who have been empowered through the creative arts.
The reason why I am crowdfunding for the project is that I did not want any of the charities to divert funds away from their front-line services to pay for the project. An initial bid was made to Arts Council England for funding which was unsuccessful so this crowdfund is now the main source of funds. As such it is a wholly community-driven project.
I am a freelancer and am giving my time to this project entirely free of charge and am taking nothing personally from the project funds. All donations will go to cover expenses which are necessarily incurred in doing the project including travel costs, accommodation, equipment, processing, printing and other costs linked to the project. Any money that is left over when Outsiders is complete will be donated to Shelter. It is a two year project and the overall costs were estimated to be £30,000 had the ACE bid been successful. It has now been scaled back based on the resources available but remains a major national project.
The project is entirely community-financed so I need your help to make this a reality. Your donation will make a very real difference to the lives of these people and will challenge decision-makers by showing them the stark reality of the way so many people are forced to live in one of the richest economies in the world.
The introductions and photo shoots for the project are being organised by the partner charities, mostly by Shelter in the early phase of the project, and members of Shelter's operational teams are present at all photo shoots with their service users. Overview from a safeguarding perspective comes from the case studies manager at Shelter to ensure the welfare of service users is central to the project.
All of the people who take part in the project are considered to be participants rather than subjects, with an input into the creative process and the ability to withdraw their consent at any time. Respect and dignity for those who choose to share their stories is paramount.
Homeless people I have spoken to often say that it is being ignored and treated as something less than human which hurts the most. This project aims to encourage people to interact with those who are homeless and recognise that they are people just like you and me, and they all have a story.
Photo shoots have now taken place in Manchester and London covering street homelessness and people living in substandard housing. It is planned to extend this to cover the North East of England, Birmingham, Glasgow and (if funds allow) Belfast. The project was put on hold in March due to Covid-19 but will be restarting later this year with outdoor photography only, done using social distancing.
In 1968 Nick Hedges was commissioned by Shelter to produce an enduring record of bad housing conditions at the time. He was shocked to the core by what he found. This new project will seek to highlight what, if anything, has changed.
From what I have photographed so far in the project many people are still living hand-to-mouth in appalling housing conditions. Jackie who I photographed in London in February this year was living in a flat with broken windows and which was riddled with damp. There was no heating and she told me that she has to make a choice between food or heating and had been unable to turn the heating on in her flat all winter as she could not afford it. She had contemplated suicide the previous month. Nobody should have to live like this in a prosperous country like ours.
You can find examples of my photography here https://davenantphotos.wordpress.com/portfolio-2/
What it means in practice
This is a not-for-profit project with the sole aim of benefiting members of the homeless community and amplifying the voices of those who are all too often ignored by society.
Your donation will make an enormous difference to the project which involves a lot of costs travelling to and engaging with homeless people in different locations across the UK and building long-term relations with them.
Anyone who makes a donation of £100 or more will be entitled to a limited edition signed print from the Outsiders series and will also be named as a donor on the website.
Whatever you can afford to donate I will be eternally grateful.
Please note Sarah Aston is shown as a beneficiary by the system as she is acting as my agent and will be drawing down the money for me. All donations will go to the project.
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