‘Acknowledged: Sydney’s Homeless’

Jennifer Blau exhibited in 2013 in Head On featured show ‘See More Janes’ and was a Head On Portrait Prize finalist

‘Acknowledged: Sydney’s Homeless’ is a new photographic exhibition at the State Library of NSW by photographers Jennifer Blau and Angela Pelizzari. The exhibition is free and is open from 29 July to 6 October 2013.

Jennifer and Angela have captured the many faces of homeless people in Sydney volunteering in recent years as portrait photographers at a day of services for homeless people held at Town Hall each year by Sydney Homeless Connect. 

The exhibition, curated by Felicity Coonan,  challenges many of the negative perceptions and depictions of homeless people and acknowledges them as individuals  just like us, but often with a tragic past. Homelessness is something that can happen to anyone and each face in the exhibition has its own fascinating story – many included alongside the photographs.

 The images present a range of searing emotions – shot dramatically in black and white. As a documentary photographer, Jennifer aimed to capture the prevailing mood of her subjects. Some sat in a kind of private pain and despair unable to look at or smile for the camera. One young man had never had his photograph taken before. Others warmed up with each frame and with the benefit of clean clothes, a haircut and a good meal provided on the day, often grasped at a chance to perform and express a more positive side of themselves to the camera, and to take away a print to share with family members they may not have seen for a long time.

The simple act of having a photograph taken allowed the subjects to feel acknowledged as they were treated with dignity and documented at their best. The exhibition of images includes families with young children, teenage couples living on the streets and men and women of all ages and ethnicities. It reminds us that the faces of homelessness are many and varied and can be just a few steps away for any of us.  The camera allows an intimate exchange between the photographer and subject and the resulting images allow the viewer to intersect their life with that of the people pictured and gain a sense of our shared humanity.

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Image detail: Gary Ramage