Psychogeography – Rough Sleeping

Copyright Ronn Thwaites 2018
Copyright Ronn Thwaites 2018

It doesn’t take long when you’re doing a street photography session or having a walk around London to come across a rough sleeper; the figures have risen yet again for homeless people who are out on the street

As someone who’s worked in the Homeless Sector for over 20 years, often directly with rough sleepers, I’m often asked about the rights and wrongs of photographing homeless people, whether you should give them money or what help you can actually give

The following advice is my personal approach, does not represent the views of the Homelessness Organisation I currently work for and it doesn’t have to be what anyone else chooses to do

I’m also not going to go into what are the reasons people sleep rough, what’s causing the rise and what the solution is; it’s far more complicated than people often think and there are no quick, easy solutions (I’ll save my views on this area for another day)

As a street photographer and Psychogeographer I feel it’s important to document what’s going on around me so I will take photographs to show the scale of rough sleeping in London. The one thing I won’t do however is take a photograph that shows a persons face or makes then easily identifiable. Having worked with people on the street I know that many wouldn’t want people to know what their circumstances are or want people knowing where they are so I will always respect this fact

Copyright Ronn Thwaites 2018
Copyright Ronn Thwaites 2018

The only expection I make for this is when the image will be used by a Homeless Organisation with express permission from the person or people shown and that image will be used to promote the service being provided

I don’t give money directly to people on the streets as it can lead to a moral question of how do I choose who to give to that is difficult to answer. Instead if I have concerns about a person or group of people I’ll make contact with colleagues in Outreach Services that I know in organisations working directly with rough sleepers and let them know. This way help will be directed to them that is more likely to make a difference

Seeing homeless people on the street when we’re out and about taking photos can be an emotive issue for many of us and at the end of the day do what you feel is the right course of action for you. I’d just ask that you show rough sleepers the same respect you would show anyone else you’d be photographing when you’re out and about

If you do have concerns about a person or group of people you come across you can contact Street Link help end rough sleeping by enabling members of the public to connect people sleeping rough with the local services that can support them; you can find details about how you can help here


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