Thursday, October 6, 2011

Home is...

The picture that springs to mind when you mention 'Homeless' is the older man who sleeps near a dumpster, wears layers of smelly old clothes and rambles incoherently about paranoid fantasies.

In reality, being homeless can encompass many states of living. You may be couch-hopping, staying with friends for as long as you or they can stand it. You may be sharing part of a room, living behind a curtain to mark your space. You may be camped out in a caravan or bungalow, one step off the street. Being homeless has many faces.

People who are homeless are stereotyped as 'losers', long-term unemployed, addicted to drink, smokes and illegal drugs. In reality, many homeless have tertiary educations, a long history of reliable employment, families and friends. Life can take a turn and cast you into a precarious situation in very short time.

Employment problems, often outside your control, can make you lose your house. Relationship problems can escalate into marriage breakdowns, forcing you out without accommodation or secure income - bingo, you're homeless!

Anchor Inc recently asked me to get involved in a project about homelessness. The idea was to give 20 of their clients (who are 'at risk if homelessness') a camera, and get them to 'document' what they thought 'Home' meant.

These participants were from all ages, all demographics, and all were living in a variety of homeless conditions.

When they received their cameras (Panasonic Lumix DMC-S1) some were familiar with such a compact, while others said to me "this is my first camera, I've never had one before in my life".

I ran a session on how to operate the camera, another session on rules of good photography, then a last session on how to break those rules. 

After getting their photos over the next few weeks, I had to choose images, get them printed (thanks Croydon Camera House) and frame them all.

The exhibition that resulted is not an 'Art Exhibition', although if art is what moves you, then many of the images may be termed as art. Many of the photos, when they are put with words, open your mind to understand the impact on everyday life that such hand-to-mouth living makes. 

The exhibition is on at the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum in Lilydale until Nov 4 2011. I urge you to visit. You can also see the images on the website, or check out the presentation on YouTube.