“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.
“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: