Countdown to Christmas | London Road
The gentleman featured in this photograph spent the previous night in sub zero temperatures in a doorway in Sheffield city centre.
How many people consider the story behind the circumstance of a person who has become homeless? How many people define the person as a ‘homeless person’ rather than a person who has become homeless? Most of us prefer to be defined by qualities in our life over which we have some control rather than the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Remembering the person first is important in all our lives. The language used around peoples lives whose circumstances have resulted in them becoming homeless is often unhelpful and dehumanising. The very least any of us can do this Christmas is consider the language we use when talking about the problems faced by people whose circumstance are different from our own. Perhaps a more compassionate choice of language is the first step to understanding the problems and sadness faced by thousands of people all year round.
Very eloquent and striking image, and very relevant thoughts too. A 🙂
Thanks for taking time to comment.
My ‘Countdown to Christmas’ series of images are focused on homelessness in Sheffield. My hope is that individually each photograph might have something to say but as a series maybe they paint a picture of a city with a crisis on it’s hands. One that is literally becoming more visible.
I’m sure Sheffield isn’t alone but the increase in people sleeping on the streets has rocketed over the last 2 years. Even Sir Robert Winston who does a lot of work with Sheffield University commented on Question Time about the number of people sleeping on the streets of Sheffield.
If I feature anyone in the photographs then they are included in a way that their anonymity is preserved. I hope my photographs do not come across as voyeuristic. I’d like to think they are a small part of a bigger conversation.
Thanks for taking time to leave your thoughts.
I’ve yet to take photos of homeless people myself, thinking of the voyeuristic / exploitative element I suppose, but this photo has none of those attributes, its an excellent catalyst for reflection on the issue. I think Bristol has much the same problem. A 🙂
Thank you. It’s reassuring that the images don’t come across as exploitative.
I’m sure Bristol has similar issues to Sheffield.
I’ve been watching Drugland (filmed over the course of a year in Bristol) on the BBC which was a brilliant documentary made with a degree of compassion. Not to suggest that all homeless people are on drugs or even drinkers. But I guess the spotlight of that programme could be applied to Sheffield or any major city. Socially things are in a mess and untangling the complex issues associated with both homelessness and drug taking is not an easy task to grapple with. Most local authorities seem to do very little because they are over stretched and under resourced. Quite where it is heading is anyones guess but I fear things will get worse before they get better.
Knowing I was going out to take images themed around homelessness I figured it likely that I would meet quite a few people who find themselves without a roof this winter. In my bag I packed items of fruit and snacks and other useful things that might help to bring just a little bit of cheer (instead of simply giving them money). I also take information about where they can get free hot food at local projects which they may or may not know about. I even have some leaflets to pass their way so they don’t have to try to remember the information. I figure it’s a positive way to engage with someone feeling vulnerable.
I think the images of the places people have tried to bed down are as poignant as the images of people who are asleep or asking for money.
I’ve been shocked at just how many people and ‘beds’ I’ve come across in what is quite a small area of Sheffield City Centre.
There are hundreds and thousands of people termed ‘hidden homeless’ who sofa surf in very insecure and precarious situations.
The people who are visibly homeless are sadly just the tip of an iceberg that isn’t about to thaw.
In December last year I published images of the tents in which people were sleeping beneath hundreds of empty flats at Park Hill in Sheffield (on this link if you are interested: https://steelcitystatic.wordpress.com/2016/12/28/sheffield-tent-city/ )
A year on from that blog post the flats remain empty and boarded up while even people are sleeping in doorways…
Interesting text, impressive photo – nice composition.
Thanks for sharing.
My ‘Coundown to Christmas’ series of photographs are of a difficult subject and hopefully part of a bigger conversation about people who are living on the streets of our cities. I think there is a story behind each image and I hope that comes across rather than appearing voyeuristic or exploitative. I wrestled with the idea of publishing the photographs. If people appear in the them then I am careful to preserve their anonymity.
For me the images without people in the shot, of places where people have attempted to bed down for the night are just as poignant.
Christmas can be difficult enough for people isolated in our communities but it is hard to imagine how it must feel for anyone out in temperatures dropping below zero.
Thanks for your comments