100 Homeless People Are Given Cameras To Tell Their Story
We each have unique gifts and passions. For Jason Williamson, a pastor in Spartanburg, South Carolina, his project called “Through Our Eyes” was an amazing way to pair his passion for photography with his heart for the homeless. Jason handed out disposable cameras to 100 homeless people, and the results will restore your faith in humanity!
Homeless Photography Project: How It Works
Jason and his church do a lot of work with the homeless in their local community. And hearing about a homelessness photography expo in London gave Jason the idea for his own project, “Through Our Eyes.”
[It was] a perfect way to combine photography, a passion I’ve had for a long time, with outreach in the community,” he said.
Volunteers helped Jason pass out 100 disposable cameras to 100 homeless individuals ranging from age 7 to 75. The instructions were simple — tell your story.
I’ve been doing photography as a hobby for over 18 years, and I knew the satisfaction that I got when I created something,” Jason explained. “I wanted these people who are on the streets to feel something different, to be inspired and feel that joy.”
The participants were asked to spend the next 5 days photographing whatever they wanted — where they go, what they see, who they hang out with, etc. It was a way to empower them, but also a way for the community to see what is is like to be homeless in a far more impactful way.
Hangin’ Out by Ray Kelly “This man is homeless. 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.”
Homeless Photography Project: The Incentive
Aside from giving the 100 homeless “a voice where they wouldn’t normally have one,” Jason’s ministry also set up a party on the last day. Those who turned in their camera was treated to a meal, a hygiene kit and a brand new T-shirt with the word “Photographer” on the back.
At the party, 46 cameras were returned and over 700 pictures were taken. And among them was a spirit of hope and community that’s truly inspirational!
The Love Is Good by Annette Barnett “We had a prayer time out back at the mission one night and I came up with the idea for the photo. We are all family here. I don’t see colors or nationalities; we are all equal. And the love. The love is good.”
Homeless Photography Project: The Work
The photos showed people with hopes and dreams — With compassion for those around them.
Young Lady by Darrell Hawkins “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.”
Cool Cat by Donald Edwards “He’s my friend and he will talk to anyone and help anyone out. I asked him if he would help me with the project and he wanted to help other people see what’s going on, too.”
The photographs showed beauty in things we regularly overlook.
Beautiful Dresses by Bobbie Nesbitt “I love that white dress. It reminds me of when my sister got married.”
And deep meaning in items we quickly to dismiss to be of little value.
Prayer Bear by Leslie Broome “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.”
They showed people who were free from the chains of materialism, who instead put the needs that really matter first.
Journey by Leslie Broome “I go to the Journey church every Sunday. I get what I need there. I love Pastor Chris and he really loves the people. The Journey feeds me spiritually and I always feel so good after I leave. Chris always has exactly the message I need to hear each week.”
Homeless Photography Project: Sharing The Work
Jason’s ministry took all 700 photographs and displayed for the community at an exhibition that doubled as a fundraiser for the homeless ministry. Visitors at the show were able to “vote” for their favorite images by making a donation in the “spare change” lockboxes put out in front of each picture.
Doug by Rumchanh Prak “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.”
Then, Jason and a team of judges selected the top 20 photographs to sell at a live auction.
“It gave [these individuals] an opportunity to be a part of the solution [to homelessness], instead of just the problem that other people are trying to fix.”
The proceeds all benefited different charitable organizations designed to help the homeless. But there was also a specialized prize for photographers receiving the most votes — items or services customized to help them with their own personal journey.
The Light of My Daughter by David Minch “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.”
Homeless Photography Project: The Impact
But even for those who didn’t “win” the contest, the experience had positive results.
One homeless participant was so inspired she accepted Christ and got baptized. Another young man reconnected with his grandmother after she saw him in a news story about the project. And one man was able to find employment.
But even more importantly, the project impacted each of the homeless participants in a profound way.
They told us that, for a moment in time, it made them feel important,” Jason said. “They had a voice and could tell their story in a way they never could before.”
Their stories opened the eyes and hearts of the community. And the project as a whole spread a very important message:
These photographers may be homeless, but they do not have to be hopeless, nameless or voiceless.”
For more about the “Through Our Eyes” project, watch the video below:
It just goes to show that God can use each of us, as well as our talents and passions, in amazing ways. You too have a gift. How will you put it to work for the glory of our God?
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11
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