Homelessness in America is just as much a stressing and debilitating part of life as any other economic or political struggle you can think of. Why, then, is it such a hard topic to address in almost every formal and informal setting? Well, the answer pretty much lies in the fact that there is a general impression about homeless people that they are where they are due to their own wrongdoings. This could not be farther from the truth.
More than 3.5 million Americans become homeless each year. Unfortunately, 1 million of these people are children from whom 300,000 are forced to spend the night on the streets on every single night. When we realize that more than half of these people are families with children, we can immediately see that the composition of homeless people cannot be narrowed down to primarily the chronic or episodic. A great number of these individuals were forced to live on the streets due to traumatic events, physical and mental disabilities and other economic causes that put people on the streets across the nation with an alarming regularity.
Most of these families were literally torn from their lives due to tragic events, loss of job or loved ones, divorce, domestic violence or family disputes that they had virtually no control over. Depression, mental illness, PTSD or other physical disabilities are just a few of the other reasons why people end up homeless.
This is where Photographer Aaron Draper, professor of photography at Chico State University, steps in with his amazing project of showing the question of homelessness in a different light so that he could bring these people “…into the light and out of the shadows for others to view and appreciate.” In his project titled Underexposed, he purposely walked out on the streets and started using his camera and off-camera strobe in an attempt to capture portraits of these homeless people in their harsh and naturally unnatural surroundings. In an interview, he claimed that his goal with these amazingly detailed portraits was to “make the homeless as visually appealing as possible in a society that is visually demanding.” He claimed that he uses “lighting as a way to interest the viewer in the subjects shown…” As he said, he only hopes “… to enable people to gain a more humane view of the homeless.”
Pictures can say more than words, so let’s see these amazing portraits:
Aaron Draper did not stop there and went on to claim that “[i]f I’m able to affect the way that one person views the homeless, I will have considered my series a success. And that gives me hope.” Having seen these portraits, we can all agree that he has done a great job at providing a unique perspective on the matter of homelessness.
Featured photo credit: Aaron Draper via petapixel.com