Belfast Telegraph

Award winning photographer gives Dublin homeless a voice

The photo blog runs on Facebook under the name Shoot The Homeless.

One of the homeless people Mr Nixon took photos of for his blog (MArk Nixon/PA)
One of the homeless people Mr Nixon took photos of for his blog (MArk Nixon/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

An award winning photographer is giving a voice to Dublin’s homeless through his photography blog.

Mark Nixon, originally from Belfast, has been based in the capital for 13 years – winning awards for portrait and magazine photography – and three years ago started photographing Dublin’s homeless population in soup kitchens as well as on the street.

“I originally just wanted to give something back,” Mr Nixon said.

“What I wanted to do was, when you walk past someone sitting in the street you might be a bit wary, it’s this othering, and I wanted to break down that barrier, and show that they’re just human beings.”

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Denise from Dublin, one of the people shot for Mr Nixon’s photoblog.

The photo blog, which runs on Facebook under the name Shoot The Homeless, features stunning portraits of rough sleepers, those in emergency accommodation, and volunteers for the charities who help them.

Each picture comes with a long caption, describing their life before and after they became homeless, their occupation, how they became homeless and other details about their lives.

“I started with a list of questions, sometimes answers will lead to a specific question, or sometimes they say something so interesting I put the question in after, which means I sound smarter,” he laughs.

“The way I photograph it, I shoot homeless people and the charity volunteers who help the homeless, so when you first look at the photo you won’t know whether they’re homeless or not – because there really isn’t any difference.”

As Ireland’s homeless crisis shows no sign of abating, Mr Nixon says he does not get involved with the policy side of the issue, but wanted to shine a light on the many different types of homelessness that now exists.

“I don’t consider myself political, I don’t get involved with political stuff, I leave that to other people, I’m literally just there to show this and let the people speak on their own,” he said.

“Growing up in the north, I’ve found anything to do with politics I tend to walk the other way.

“I don’t see an easy answer to it, they don’t have a voice really, they have no vote, they don’t have an address, so who’s going to care about them?

“But what is amazing is the people who care for them, they’re so loving and giving.

“I find it emotional, the thing that strikes you is how normal people are, of course some people have mental issues, but for the most part, you’re struck by the normality of it, you’re thinking to yourself ‘why are you homeless?’

“In the last few years there’s a lot more kids, there didn’t used to be, but now I often see them at the soup kitchen, meeting their friends and getting some food, they all come together, it’s kind of like a social thing, but definitely there are more kids there.

“I can’t imagine it, nights when you’re at home and it’s freezing outside, all I can think is imagine trying to cuddle up and get warm in a doorway – it makes you grateful.”

Although the blog is going from strength to strength, Mr Nixon says his next challenge will be to photograph those living in emergency accommodation and hotels.

“It’s funny, I have my own Facebook page and it’s really small, but the homeless page just took off,” he said.

“Certain soup kitchens will share the photos on their pages and the responses just kept getting bigger.

“My most popular post was a few weeks back, a girl who cut hair in the homeless shelter, she volunteered there, but went on to tell me she had been homeless a few years back, and her brother had been homeless too, and subsequently died, and now she volunteers to give back.

“I kept turning my recorder off, and then she’d tell me something else and I’d turn it back on, she was so interesting, and the response was just amazing.”

PA

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