ARTS & CULTURE
07/28/2016 12:28 pm ET | Updated Aug 22, 2016

100 Homeless Individuals Documented Their Lives With Disposable Cameras

The breathtaking social art project is called "Through Their Eyes."

Photo courtesy of Ray Kelly / Through Our Eyes project

“This man is homeless,” Ray Kelly said of the person in the photo above, which he took with a disposable Fujifilm camera. “He didn’t want his face in the picture. He was just hangin’ out because that’s what homeless people do. They hang out and wait for food or for a place to open. They wait for something to happen.”

Kelly has also struggled with homelessness. In fact, he is one of 100 individuals who participated in the social artwork “Through Their Eyes,” illuminating their experiences. The Spartanburg, South Carolina-based project distributed disposable cameras to members of the community, inviting them to document their lives and share their stories over the course of five days.

The initiative aims to bring visibility to the epidemic of homelessness through the eyes of those who live it, day in and day out. The selected artists archived the daily minutiae that constitute their being ― the food, the people, the struggles, the moments of beauty and love. 

Photo courtesy of Donald Edwards / Through Our Eyes project

We want to encourage people by giving them a message of hope,” Jason Williamson, a pastor and leader of the project, explained. “We want to have an opportunity to share the gospel with them. To let them know that they are loved. Even though things in their life may be dark right now, there is a lot of hope for them. That the things they’ve experienced in the past don’t define who they are.”

“We want to give them the satisfaction and joy that comes with creating art,” he added.

The project hopes to communicate the reality of homelessness, not through sweeping generalizations and overarching messages, but through real people and genuine moments. As the project explains in a statement: “These photographers may be homeless, but they do not have to be hopeless, nameless or voiceless. This is their chance to tell the community: ‘These are our stories. These are our lives. See what we see. Through our eyes.’”

See some of the photographs, along with descriptions from the artists, below: 

“Cool Down” by Bobbie Nesbitt

Photo courtesy of Bobbie Nesbitt / Through Our Eyes project
“I go there often to eat ices when it’s hot.”

”Beautiful Dresses” by Bobbie Nesbitt

Photo courtesy of Bobbie Nesbitt / Through Our Eyes project
“I love that white dress. It reminded me of when my sister got married.”

”Hatred” by Ray Kelly

Photo courtesy of Ray Kelly / Through Our Eyes project
“Someone set this place on fire because they got jealous that someone else stayed in there.”

”The Light of my Daughter” by David Minch

Photo courtesy of David Minch / Through Our Eyes project
“She’s my world. She’s everything. And she’s how I got through a dismal situation. She kept me going when I didn’t necessarily think I should.”

”Trouble Free” by Donald Edwards

Photo courtesy of Donald Edwards / Through Our Eyes project
“I took it for the simple fact that if he saw his own picture, he’d have to stay out of trouble."

“Our Freedom to be Homeless Fell Upon These Shoulders” by Stephanie Farmer

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Farmer / Through Our Eyes project
“I have a lot of respect for older people and veterans. He and I spend time together and eat turkey neck bones. He’s got a creek outside his house that I like to spend time at. We have the freedoms today because of people like him. He didn’t have a choice but to be in the military and I respect his efforts and life.”

 “Moving In” by Mildred Johnson

Photo courtesy of Mildred Johnson / Through Our Eyes project
“I knew her from another shelter. I was going to help her get her clothes out and thought I’d take her picture first. I was excited to have a friend here, but I felt bad because she didn’t have a choice but to come to the shelter.”

"Young Lady” by Darrell Hawkins

Photo courtesy of Darrell Hawkins / Through Our Eyes project
“I took this photo because I thought she was a nice young lady. I think it’s very cool. I want other people to know that they can take the same pictures, do something interesting.”

"Doug” by Rumchanh Prak

Photo courtesy of Rumchanh Prak / Through Our Eyes project
“He was sitting under a tree in the shade and I saw the light coming in from behind him. He was in a good posture. The picture says that you can just relax and be free.”

”Prayer Bear” by Leslie Broome

Photo courtesy of Leslie Broome / Through Our Eyes project
“I was trying to take pictures of things I see on a daily basis and I really value him. It was a gift. Prayer is a big part of my life. He has a button that says, ‘Now I lay me down to sleep,’ when you push it. I know my prayers are being answered. Anything outside of God’s will isn’t going to work anyway.”

"Home” by Annette Barnett

Photo courtesy of Annette Barnett / Through Our Eyes project
“This was home to me and a lot of people. When I took the picture, I was wondering who slept there the night before and if they were OK the next day. I was wondering if there were kids or animals involved because they don’t have a voice.”

 “Happy As I Can Be” by Robert Aldridge

Photo courtesy of Robert Aldridge / Through Our Eyes project
“I see her all the time and find her very interesting. I’ve spent time walking and talking with her. I want to know more about her. I want to know why she does the things she does and how she lives.”

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