Identity Kit Series



The recording of the homeless scene and of homeless people is regarded as “victim” photography by contemporary photography theorists. For the documentary photographer such a criticism, if taken as gospel, prevents the bearing of witness to social conditions, and assists in the elimination of particular pieces of visual social history. A vacuum is thus created into which a new interpretation is possible, based on whatever brand of political ideology is being proposed.

How then is the antipathy to the descriptive photograph to be overcome, in relation to the depiction of street-homelessness? With the Identity Kit series shown here, I have attempted to portray the gross poverty of the dispossessed by inviting some of the homeless men on London's streets to display their belongings - those carried in their pockets, or in a bag. The individuals' participation in the arrangement of their possessions, and their willingness to lay them open for external scrutiny, is a statement from the heart of their perilous and impecunious position. (As one young man, Darren, stated: These are all my worldly goods.)

Within contemporary theory these photographs are an acceptable portrayal of poverty, with no direct visible indicator to the disadvantaged human subject. The photographs' contents become the vehicle through which the viewer can attempt to understand the bleakness of a human existence deprived of material objects and possessions.

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