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Image for Portrait Of Homelessness

Article by Kaz Russell-Graham | 5th August 2019

Portrait Of Homelessness

Taking a new look at homelessness through the lens.

This exhibition by award-winning photographer Robert Greshoff offers a thought-provoking perspective on Kent’s homelessness crisis. The inspiration for the exhibition came during Robert’s work photographing successful clients when he noted that their success was due, at least in part, to circumstances such as financial, moral and emotional support, good connections and luck. Having lived in Canterbury for the past 16 years, and aware of the city’s homeless, Robert wanted to use his skills to help highlight the complex issues surrounding their circumstances – and came up with the idea of capturing homeless people in the same positive way he would his corporate clients. He approached Porchlight, who worked with him on the concept – and the result is A Portrait of Homelessness, a thought-provoking perspective on Kent’s homeless crisis that fittingly marks Porchlight’s 45th anniversary.

Robert believes that, on the street, we see homeless people as tied to their circumstances. By shooting his subjects against a neutral grey background, he removes them from their everyday context – everything is stripped away, leaving the individual personalities, which enables us to see the humanity that binds us together rather than the circumstances that set us apart.

“In my view, photography on its own is no more than pretty pictures,” explains Robert, adding: “Photography needs a narrative and to serve a cause, and homelessness is one of the most important social issues facing our society today.”

Chris Thomas, PR and communications officer at Porchlight, who worked with Robert and homeless people on the project, feels that there are a lot of preconceptions of people on the street, saying: “We can easily forget about the individual story and the value these people have. But every one of them has potential. These photos help us to not just see the label of homelessness, but the real person behind the circumstances.”

• A Portrait of Homelessness is on at the Beaney House of Art & Knowledge, Canterbury CT1 2BD and moves to the Horsebridge Arts Centre, Whitstable from 11th-24th September. Visit porchlight.org.uk & greshoff.co.uk

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