Homeless Photographers Capture the Streets of London

ROL, Mr Bond and the Cutty Sark, Greenwich. Photo: Café Art.
ROL, Mr Bond and the Cutty Sark, Greenwich. Photo: Café Art.

What happens when 100 homeless people are given a disposable camera and the instructions to capture London in photographs? Some intriguing images are created, if the results of a recent project by Café Art, a UK-based arts initiative, are any indication.

Café Art teamed up with the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) on the “My London” project, now in its fourth year. The RPS provided two training sessions for participants before the cameras were handed out in June.

A month later, 80 of the 100 cameras were returned, yielding over 2,500 photographs.

Ceci, <em>Tower Bridge Picnic, Southwark</em>. Photo: Café Art.

Ceci, Tower Bridge Picnic, Southwark.
Photo: Café Art.

A jury with members from FujiFilm, Amateur Photographer magazine, London Photo Festival, Christie’s and Homeless Link winnowed the thousands of images down to just 20. Last month, the finalists were exhibited at Spitalfields Arts Market, and the public voted on the top 12, which will be featured in the My London 2016 calendar.

The calendar is being sold on Kickstarter, with the proceeds funding printing costs. Additional funds will go to the winning photographers, or to art classes and materials for homeless individuals and art groups. Since 2012, the annual calendar’s sales have raised £45,000 (about $69,000).

One participant named Ellen Rostant, who took three of the finalist photos, is a 16-year-old girl who lives in temporary housing with her seven brothers and sisters. Another woman named Ceci, who lives in a squat, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. A former chef known as ROL (short for Ray of Light) has had a photo in the last two calendars.

Ellen Rostant, <em>Light at the End, Stratford</em>. Photo: Café Art.

Ellen Rostant, Light at the End, Stratford.
Photo: Café Art.

Frances Whitehouse, <em>Yellow and Red</em>. Photo: Café Art.

Frances Whitehouse, Yellow and Red.
Photo: Café Art.

Ellen Rostant, <em>Faceless Child, East London</em>. Photo: Café Art.

Ellen Rostant, Faceless Child, East London.
Photo: Café Art.

XO, <em>London Calling, Lincoln's Inn</em>. Photo: Café Art.

XO, London Calling, Lincoln’s Inn.
Photo: Café Art.

Zilvinas Vaiteikunas, <em>West End Bird</em>. Photo: Café Art.

Zilvinas Vaiteikunas, West End Bird.
Photo: Café Art.

David Tovey, <em>Bags for Life, Strand</em>. Photo: Café Art.

David Tovey, Bags for Life, Strand.
Photo: Café Art.

Goska Calik, <em>Colour Festival, Olympic Park</em>. Photo: Café Art.

Goska Calik, Colour Festival, Olympic Park.
Photo: Café Art.

Left Boot, East London, <em>Ellen Rostant</em>. Photo: Café Art.

Left Boot, East London, Ellen Rostant.
Photo: Café Art.

Desmond Henry, <em>Tyre Break, Hackney</em>. Photo: Café Art.

Desmond Henry, Tyre Break, Hackney.
Photo: Café Art.

Michael Crosswaite, <em>The Artist, Whitechapel</em>. Photo: Café Art.

Michael Crosswaite, The Artist, Whitechapel.
Photo: Café Art.

Other arts organizations looking to help the homeless include Space, Not Spikes, an art collective that is speaking out against “anti-homeless spikes,” which look to deter loitering in public spaces.

This past year, London’s Royal Academy formed a community art club for the homeless, opening the museum to club members once a month. Each meeting includes a tour of the current exhibition, and a chance for the homeless to make art of their own.

Related Stories:

Dustin Yellin Makes Art With Homeless Kids at Pioneer Works

Gerhard Richter Donates Works to Charity Auction Benefiting Düsseldorf’s Homeless

Sistine Chapel Closes for Tourists, Opens for the Homeless

Homeless Man Locked Inside Tate Britain


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