You can balk at the numbers: There are an estimated 20,000 homeless youth in New York City; 40 percent of homeless youth in the U.S. are LGBT; in 2012, 5,000 homeless youths were turned away from shelters in the city. Or, keeping those numbers in mind, you can dive deeper into the individual lives of some of the people who dream of being more than a statistic. See Me: Picturing New York's Homeless Youth, a book and photography exhibit debuting in May, is attempting to achieve the latter, via stunning portraits by some of the youths themselves.
Photographer Alex Fradkin worked with 15 LGBT homeless youth from the Reciprocity Foundation, teaching them photography and helping them create portraits depicting their lives, the homes they were forced to leave, and their dreams for the future. As you can see for yourself in some of the photos, the result is something a little more than you can gather passing by a kid panhandling in the park. They are somehow beautiful and hard to look at, painful and hard to look away from. They make you angry and full of hope.
See Me celebrates the 10th anniversary of Reciprocity, an organization that works holistically with homeless, runaway and foster care youths in New York to help them gain independence from the system. The foundation previously produced the Emmy-nominated 2011 documentary Invisible: Diaries of New York's Homeless Youth. Co-founder Taz Tagore, who wrote the text of the book, explained to Buzzfeed why it's important that the subjects don't look like one-dimensional victims.
"So few people, once you put the homeless label on them, are able to see [the youth] in any other way. But there’s power that comes with being the survivor of abuse, the survivor of homelessness. Having to assert your sexual orientation and gender identity makes you a really powerful person."