What Happens When You Give 100 Cameras Out To Homeless Londoners

Photo: Courtesy of Cafe Art.
Last July, London's Cafe Art, a CIC company that assists artists affected by homelessness, gave out 100 disposable cameras to the homeless. They got 80 cameras back, filled with photos of everyday life in London. Now, thanks to a Kickstarter, a few select images will be printed in a calendar.

"Some [of the photographers] are sleeping rough; others have been homeless but are still attending homelessness charities. We contacted them through art groups run by the charities," Paul Ryan, Cafe Art's director, told Refinery29 in an email. "We gave basic training on how to use the camera in the art groups, followed by a training session for anyone who wanted to come, run by The Royal Photographic Society."

In total, 2,500 photos were submitted; the 12 selected for the calendar were chosen by a public vote in August. They include images of a Holi-inspired event, London parks, and a row of telephones. Here, nine photos from the project, and the stories behind them.
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Photo: Courtesy of Cafe Art/Desmond Henry.
"Tyre Break, Hackney," by Desmond Henry

Henry, born in Northamptonshire, captured this image of a woman taking a coffee break in front of a mural by the Brazilian street artists Cranio, Bailon, and Sliks.

Henry attends the Pritchard's Road Day Centre and plays music as a DJ.
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Photo: Courtesy of Cafe Art / David Tovey.
"Everything I Own" or "Bags of Life, Strand," by David Tovey.

David Tovey ran across Tony sitting near the Royal Courts of Justice. "It was the first photo I took. He was sitting there in complete contrast to the building across the road," Tovey told Cafe Art.

Tovey, who took a foundation art course at London Metropolitan University in 2013, originally started as a restaurateur. After dealing with health issues, he lost his business and home. He is now a practicing artist and volunteers with Clothing the Homeless and Café Art.
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Photo: Courtesy of Cafe Art / Gosak Calik.
"Colour Festival, Olympic Park," by Goska Calik.

Goska Calik was not new to photography. "I started taking photos when I was five years old," she says. "The first photography I did was with my father. It was with a Zorky 12, a Russian camera. He taught me about light and the zoom and everything. I loved it."

After losing her job to to an illness, Calik got support from Crisis Skylight and is now a part-time support worker.
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Photo: Courtesy of Cafe Art / Ellen Rostant.
"Left Boot, East London," by Ellen Rostant.

Rostant, who is 16, has been in temporary housing with her parents and seven siblings for three years. She is attending Sixth Form College.
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Photo: Courtesy of Cafe Art / Ellen Rostant.
"Nature's Tunnel" or "Light and the End," Stratford, by Ellen Rostant.

Rostant's second photo to be voted onto the calendar was captured at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. "It’s like you are in a tunnel when you are homeless: It’s a journey, and there’s always going to be light at the end of the tunnel," she says.

Rostant is now studying geography, 3-D graphic design, and photography.
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Photo: Courtesy of Cafe Art / Cecie.
"Tower Bridge PICNIC, Southwark," by Cecie.

Hong Kong-born Cecie, who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, works with the Crisis art group to help escape her Bethnal Green squat.

She is currently creating a blog about random acts of kindness.
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Photo: Courtesy of Cafe Art / Michael Crosswaite.
"The Artist, Whitechapel," by Michael Crosswaite.

Michael Crosswaite ran across Aaron Little in Providence Row, a homeless charity. "I didn’t over-think the photo, and perhaps that’s why it worked. The painting is so good, it makes the picture," he says.
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Photo: Courtesy of Cafe Art / XO.
"Telephone Row, Lincoln's Inn," by XO.

XO was fascinated by the shorter telephone booths, unique to London. "Although very rarely used these days, I love the fact they're still around. They're synonymous with our capital, and this city wouldn't be the same without them, so I'm happy they're protected," XO told Cafe Art.
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Photo: Courtesy of Cafe Art / Ioanna Zagkana.
"Past & Future, City of London," by Ioanna Zagkana

The Gherkin, built in 2003, and the St. Andrew Undershaft, which survived the Great Fire of London, represent modern and historic London, Zagkana says.

Zagkana, who was a dancer until an accident ended her career, attends Crisis Skylight and Women at the Well and is currently staying with a friend.