PHOTOSPEAKS: HOMELESSNESS BUT NOT HOPELESS
– Elisha Chebwawaza Gideon (Elisha Jnr)
Somehow in Niger State of Nigeria I encountered a homeless family encamping. I saw this family sleeping and seeking shelter on the platform of train benches, wrapped in leaathers. We might have encountered some homeless people around us, Moseying along avenues, we encounter homeless people on the sidewalks begging for money.
We look at them, but remain indifferent. We hear their silences; we look at their vulnerabilities and proximities, their unevenness and anger. But do we hear their voices or see their humanity, talents, and gifts? We don’t. But we need to.
Recently this need has become even more dire.
Homelessness is everywhere but, although we constantly look at homeless people, we don’t usually see them. We only think we see them.
I didn’t actually see homeless people until I started photographing them. I used to just look. And just looking would make me avoid thinking.
On the 16th of March 2021, Walking down home from school, I saw a homeless family sleeping just bythe road side close to a park. People were looking at them, wary of stepping on their body parts. Before photographing them, I waited for people who trade around there to leave the platform, aware that most people disapprove of me photographing a homeless family.
Through my lens, I related to them in a way that did not fade away like the vision of my in-person encounter might. I now had a physical image of them that I carried with me.
Certainly, one could consider that photographing homeless people is unethical since it denies them privacy. In some sense, this is true.
But photography actually has the capacity to reveal our own prejudice. And photographers can navigate tricky questions of privacy with the same intent of photojournalism they’ve always navigated while depicting marginalized groups bytreeating the subjects with dignity, providing accurate context and representing subjects without manipulation. – Elisha Chebwawaza Gideon (Elisha Jnr)
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