Are homeless people “allowed” to be happy?

I was challenged to capture a Taboo subject in 24 hr. It went beyond my expectation and led me to an experience I will never forget. I decided to look for a homeless person as it is still a topic that generates a lot of controversy and misperceptions.

Walking down the street of one the Sydney’s most picturesque and diverse suburb Newtown I saw a shadow in one of the corners. Looked back, there was a homeless man on the ground holding a disposable coffee mug in his hands.

- Did you have dinner? - I asked

- No - he said.

I offered to shout him a dinner, and then we sat together on the ground and silently ate the sushi rolls I bought.

I felt how intimidating is to sit on the ground asking for money while the busy, buzzy people walk past without even seeing you. You become invisible to the world.

He said his name is Lawrence, and he is an artist and musician. He loves playing guitar with his brother at Redfern Station, but now his guitar is broken, so he is saving for a new one.

We had a chat, and he briefly shared his journey. I told Lawrence about my 24 hr challenge and asked if he will allow me to take a photo of him. He nodded, and I took an image of him that capture the loneliness, a reality for most of the homelessness people.

 - How long will you stay on the street tonight?

- I don't know. I need $25 to get a room at a motel nearby. Some nights it takes longer to gather this amount of money than others. - Lawrence said.

We kept chatting. It was a cold night, and I offered to contribute to his room rate.

- Are you ready to go?

He started to pack up while I was still sitting on the ground. As he thanked me I asked him to give me a smile that I can capture. Lawrence looked at me:

- But I have no teeth! - a reason not to smile I would have never guessed.

I put the camera down:

- Who cares, Lawrence!?

He gave me a warm, charming smile that lit up not only his face but my heart too.

I was looking at the final print and asked myself:

Are homeless people “allowed” to be happy?

Can human kindness make a difference in their lives?

Can we change the taboo?

Published in Blog Neli
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