Eye Contact Project
Homeless people tend to have a very negative image with the Australian public. People tend to believe the homeless problem is intractable, and look the other way when they see homeless people in the street. This attitude unfortunately percolates through to State and Federal government policy.
Leading Perth photographer Phil England along with The Rotary Clubs of Perth & Heirisson, are working on a project to address these attitudes. The project is to create a series of 20 large artistic portraits of homeless people along with a brief version of their story, and exhibit them publicly. Over the years Phil has photographed many of our community’s leaders in the areas of politics, sport, the corporate community and entertainment as well as the world of artists and craftsmen. The portraits will have the subjects looking directly at the viewer (“Eye Contact”), and the object is to have the viewer recognize the humanity in the homeless person.
The project will be launched at the Cloisters Centre, Hay St Perth, on the 10th October 2017, and the launch will also be a fund-raiser for Homeless Healthcare – Perth’s leading provider of healthcare to the homeless.
Here’s what Phil has to say on the project:
“Eye Contact – it’s what we do when we want to make friends, want someone believe what we’re saying, or when we need to understand someone.
“Eye Contact – it’s also what we seemingly don’t do to the always increasing number of homeless people that are populating our streets.
“We all know that to solve a problem we first must acknowledge it. Look at it. Sometimes, if we’re brave enough hold it’s gaze it’ll look us straight back in the eye and we can then see that it’s not so scary, not so difficult to deal with.
“What are we looking at when it comes to the homeless situation on our streets? In so many ways homeless people are just like us, they’ve had hopes and dreams, families, friends, opinions, something to offer. In short, all part of the big, sprawling thing we call humanity.
“Eye Contact – it’s also a proposed photographic exhibition focussing on the people who live on our streets that brings to the forefront the basic humanity of the homeless and and in doing so will also ask us re-examine our feelings towards these people.
“It’s not the kind of exhibition that focuses on the negative, it’s not the sort of exhibition that glamorises. It just aims to strip away some of the prejudices that are preventing our community from addressing this sad issue. The exhibition, using large two meter high, stylised black and white images incorporating revealing question and answer artwork that points out the fact that given equal opportunities, everyone is the same.
“Aimed at getting the corporate leaders of our city to get behind initiatives like Homeless Healthcare which is doing a great job of giving people on the streets frontline medical care that in many cases they just wouldn’t get.
“Eye Contact the exhibition will need a small amount of financial support to come alive but the main need is for as many people as possible to see the exhibition and then start a new conversation about homelessness, a conversation that re-focuses on the basic humanity of the problem and how as fellow humans we can help a less fortunate group of people.”