UN Photography student’s project gives a voice to the homeless

Date 12.11.2015

​​​A Photography graduate from the University of Northampton has been praised for ‘humanising’ the homeless through her work.

Georgie Hankins photographed and interviewed six homeless people who use Northampton Hope Centre for her final-year project at the University. She gained the trust of her subjects after volunteering for several months at the day centre, which provides support for the homeless, where she ran art lessons. The results of her work are a series of striking black and white images, accompanied with moving stories about the homeless people in their own words.

One of the subjects is Ambrose Doherty who has been homeless for 12 of the last 25 years, primarily in Northampton, and is the Hope Centre’s longest-serving volunteer. He said: “Georgie has caught in a photograph the essence of what it means to be homeless.

“There are some smiles here and there on the faces of those photographed, but each face shows the struggles we have gone through – they tell a story.

“When you are homeless you are invisible – but Georgie had a vision to make the silent speak, and she’s achieved it through these images.

“Georgie will be remembered in years to come for this statement. She used her skills to bring out the feelings of people who don’t normally want to be asked a question, she’s allowed people to open up and tell their stories.”

Georgie, who graduated in July, said: “I wanted to give people a different perspective of the homeless, to give them a voice. People turn a blind eye to them and don’t talk about the issue.

“By getting to know the people I photographed, I was able to find out about their lives, and was really overwhelmed by their stories. Hopefully, people who see my work will change their perceptions about the homeless, and recognise that they are human beings, just like me and you.”

Georgie’s work ties in with the University’s commitment to creating positive social change. Each student has the chance to take part in the Changemaker Certificate – a programme designed to significantly enhance employability by focusing on problem solving skills, developing awareness of social impact and developing entrepreneurial thinking to tackle social problems.

As part of the Changemaker Certificate, students have the opportunity to identify a social issue – either at home, in their neighbourhood or at the University – and then work on developing their skills to tackle that problem, implanting a solution.

Senior Lecturer in Photography at the University, Dr Sri-Kartini Leet, said: “Georgie’s ambitions for her Hope Centre project embrace Changemaker values.

“While it can be so easy to regurgitate ‘victim photography’ through subjects such as homelessness, Georgie’s integrity and honesty motivated her to approach her subjects differently – giving them a voice to speak about they own histories.”

Georgie’s photographs can be viewed online.