Throughout my time living in Manchester I have seen the rise of homelessness in the city and is the reason why I wanted to spend my final year of my degree documenting the issue.
I initially started by walking the streets not thinking too much about composition. It was important for me to immerse myself in the issue and approach the issue head on. I have found that just sitting down and having a conversation with homeless people can make their day and this is something I will continue to do throughout the project.
These images were photographed on Oxford road under the Mancunion Way where a shelter for the homeless has been set up by a group of activists. The group have set up tents and are collecting donations from the public who pass by which will allow them to purchase food and tents and sleeping bags for the homeless.
I went to photograph the student protest outside Manchester Metropolitan University following the eviction from the emergency homeless shelter under the Mancunion Way. The shelter, named The Ark was for a while a safe haven for the homeless of Manchester. The university evicted the homeless just before fresher’s week in order to “clean up the streets” and boost marketing of the uni. In my opinion the university could of handled this situation a lot better and used its position in the city as a forced the council to do more about the city issues. Ironically, just a few weeks after the eviction the university hosted a Homeless Film Festival.
My images were shot on 35mm film but as the protest went on I was loosing light which resulted in some images becoming blurred. Overall I was not happy with the quality of these images but the experience of photographing the protest was vital to my practice. As a documentary photographer it is important for me to think about how I am in control of capturing the true story of the situation and I could of deceived the viewer to assume something to be fact by composing the photograph in a specific way.
I have started focusing my work onto the belongings and the traces of homeless people. Things that the homeless leave behind to mark there spot where they sleep and the things they leave to return to later in the day.
Although these images are not very well shot it is a starting point for me to gain some inspiration and find a focus and direction of my work.
I spoke to a man called Clive, a homeless artist who paints seascapes as a way of making money to survive on the street. Clive was abused by his farther and as a teenager he ran away from home. He got caught up in the drugs game and became a cartel which eventually resulted in him being sent to prison. After getting released from prison Clive found himself homeless and has been in and out of homeless shelters for the past five years.
Situated on a strip of land near Manchester Piccadilly station some homeless people have set up a homeless camp on the edge of the grounds of the University Of Manchester.
I wanted my images to show the reality of the situation and contain little signs of human life to help tell a story. Items of clothes hanging on a washing line shows moments of normality and highlights the fact of life in inhumane circumstances.
Again for these shots I photographed from a lower perspective to put the viewer at the same level as the issue to subconsciously make them think about the crisis.
For this set of images I was focusing on belonging and traces that had been left behind by the homeless. I tried to put the focus in the centre of the image as I want my images to talk about the homelessness issue and almost say the the viewer, 'look at this'. I wanted to get low to the ground and give a different perspective as it would be from passer by. Having a lot of the ground in the image helps narrate the issue that we have on the streets of Manchester with homelessness. I think the images that work best are the ones that have a straight on, Dusseldorf style of composition.
We walk past the homeless everyday, sat on street corners, next to cash machines and in shop doorways. But what happens when the public leave the city? I decided that I would walk the streets at night with my camera and photograph what I saw. Throughout this project I will talk to the people I meet and ask for their permission before taking a photograph, however in this case I didn't want to disturb them from the little sleep they get each night.
It was important for me to photograph from a low perspective so highlight the ground they are sleeping on to immerse the viewer in the image. We are used to looking down on homeless people as we walk past them. I wanted to put the viewer at same level as the homeless, to hopefully encourage the viewer to empathise.
I began thinking about capturing the causes of homelessness in my images. Structural causes of homelessness are social and economic in nature, and are often outside the control of the individual or family concerned. These require long-term policy solutions such as changes in the housing benefit system, the building of more affordable homes, and ensuring that a wider cross-section of society benefits from the fruits of economic growth. One factor that plays a part in Manchester's homeless crisis is the lack of affordable housing in the city. There is not enough focus on new family homes and too much reliance on city centre apartments within the city. 46% of homes in proposed land supply are for one and two person households
I decided to photograph the abundance of luxury accommodation within the city to juxtapose against my other images. Most building sites in the city display advertisements of what they are building on the border of the construction site. Its these messages which I am interested in photographing alongside the construction itself, taking a typographic view to include the surroundings and capture the bigger picture.
Still focusing on accommodation and construction within the city, I decided to experiment with using black and white film on a medium format camera in the hope it would give a bleak, dull feel to the images. Personally I feel it does give a depressing feel to the Northern Powerhouse, however s part of my final series of images, I personally feel that it should be all or nothing and therefore don't see them working in the series.
I met up with Clive again. The homeless artist who slept under the "Thanks for 30 years, See you at Home" sign. When I was walking past he was in the process of being evicted from his spot on Oxford Road and was being housed in emergency accommodation. Clive took me to his accommodation but unfortunately I was not allowed to enter as he was on a probation period. So instead I photographed It from the outside. I wanted to capture the tower block in its surroundings, in the middle of an Ancoats housing estate and in juxtaposition to the other tower blocks with luxury modern accommodation.
Woodward court is a tower block provided by the council for the homeless which provides support to help people get off the street and into accommodation whilst also providing healthcare, and support for mental health.
I spent the day walking around looking for left belongings but couldn't really find anything. I still spoke to a few people so I took there picture. I really like the image of the clothes on the washing line but Im not really happy with the quality of the image. I don't know if it was a issue with my settings in camera or if it was a badly scanned slide.
I also spoke to two young lads who were homeless, one was eighteen and the other was nineteen. There were both smoking spice, a legal high, which they had just bought from the newsagent around the corner. When I asked them what it was they replied "its spice, a synthetic marijuana which is more addictive then crac, and heroine... Don't ever try it, people get killed over it"
Since the last shoot I have been interested in the issue of drugs on the street so when I stumbled across a site where the homeless people have been taking drugs and injecting themselves with heroin. There were needles everywhere, spoons for heating up the heroin, human fecies and wet clothes. I know this is like the stereotypical homelessness photography series which is the reason why I am probe;y not going to have many of these images of drugs in my final work.
I have found that with many of the homeless people I speak with is that they are surrounded by drugs and the temptation of taking drugs everyday. If they were to get off the street and into sheltered accommodation they are still surrounded by other drug addicts. Many homeless people were not heavy drug users before becoming homeless, its the street that has caused them to rely on drugs to get by.
Some the these images that I have taken will be good for the project. I really like the ones of the pillowcase as I feel that it helps tell the story. However the graffiti is still a cliche.
For this shoot I wanted to return back to housing and the lack of affordable housing for low income families within the city. Here I walked around a housing estate in Ardwick and photographed the run down buildings and council houses in the area.
I have now just been walking the city looking mainly for photo opportunity which will go with the series. I am now mainly focussing on the traces and belongings which have ben left behind. I am taking a frontal perspective in my images and trying to photograph from low down to bring the viewer to the same height as the issue. We see homelessness from our eye level every time we enter the city so it is important for me to try and give a different viewing perspective. A view from the street.
Again I walked he cry finding new sleeping begs, clothing, cardboard and tents in different locations. Every time I go out and photograph the issue I seem to find that there is somewhere new homeless people are taking refuge.
I also returned to photograph my print installation of the see you at home sign. It is now peeling off and blowing in the wind so I doubt it will be up for much longer. It has been up for about 4 weeks now so a lot of people would of seen this as they are crossing the road on the corner to oxford road train station.
Although I didn't take many shots 'in this shoot, I actually think it was one of the most rewarding shoots out of the lot. I have got quite a few good images the will work in the project. There is the green tent disguise in the park, The cardboard bed in the carpark, the sleeping bags in the archway (almost resembling a church and faith) and the poppy duvet hanging to dry on the washing line. I had just been speaking to an ex solider who has been homeless for the past 5 years. He suffered form post traumatic stress form what he witnessed in the war and is not a heroin addict. It is sad to see people who have been fighting wars for our country living by themselves on a street with mental health issues.