Thursday, 16 February 2012

the homeless of newquay + Lee Jeffries - portraits of the homeless

I have received nearly 200 hits since I posted my photographs from my day spent with the homeless of Newquay, and an overwhelmingly positve response - by my standards at least - from those who viewed it. I have also received quite a bit of attention from those outside my circle of friendship and tutors here at the university. This morning I received an email from a woman who works as a drugs and alcohol officer with homeless people in the Newquay area. She explained to me how a friend emailed the blog post to her from the proverbial grape vine that is Facebook, seeing as she "lives and breathes homelessness". In the email she said that she is interested in working along-side me as I produce an on-going study of these people, which could culminate in exhibiting in the town and media coverage due to the fact she, quote: "knows people". The name BBC Spotlight was even mentioned, which got me fantasizing about all sorts of scenarios at half nine this morning, most of which ended in me becoming a rich and famous photographer... We'll see.

In all seriousness, she sounds like a very dedicated and passionate person. Combined with my passion for photography I believe we could produce something quite special. We will be meeting in Newquay this Saturday discuss her "plan". 

That aside, I am now beginning to think more deeply about how I want to go about creating my documentation of the homeless in Newquay, and where better to start then some good, old fashioned artist research. Below is some examples of work by amateur photographer Lee Jeffries, who has recently been creating a body of work based entirely around portraits of the homeless. So far he has visited London, Manchester, Rome, New York and, with his most recent work, Los Angeles and Miami.

Interestingly, Jeffries is not a professional photographer; by day he is an accountant in Manchester. When first viewing these images I thought that they had been shot on a medium format camera, as the image format would suggest; however, upon viewing his Flickr account, it turned out that they were all shot using a Canon 5D (respect). This means that Jeffries must have cropped his images to appear as though they had been shot medium format - something which I am not a fan of. In fact, I would say that Jeffries' only downfall would be that sometimes his images appear to be almost a little too over-produced, detracting from their raw environment slightly. Nonetheless, this does not belittle the fact that Jeffries has produced some stunningly detailed portraits which capture faces with great character and honesty. More of Jeffries' work can be seen on his Flickr account, here:

I especially like the profile portraits.
This has definitely inspired me on the portrait front; Jeffries explained how he always made sure he gave the subjects money as thanks. He also stated - in an interview with The Mail Online - that his main approach was to befriend the people. Unfortunately I think that these portraits alone do not give a sense of assimilation with these people, which is why my plan of action will be slow but sure integration with the homeless of Newquay to capture images which people do not see every day. Of course, part of this process will involve me making portraits of the homeless, but that is all part of the journalistic process of image-making and story-telling. What I want to achieve is a depth of reportage similar to the likes of Larry Towell's The Mennonites, Jim Goldberg's Raised by Wolves, Smith's Country Doctor, and, more recently, Jessica Dimmock's The Ninth Floor,


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