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Homeless: A Photography Exhibition

9 September 17 interview: Bridie Squires

Local photographer Dan Hughes is hosting a photography competition – Homeless – alongside the organisation that helps our community’s most vulnerable: Emmanuel House. Here, Dan tells us all about the hows and whys of the project...

Can you tell us a bit more about Homeless?
It’s a photography competition created to raise awareness of homelessness, and its effects on those directly and indirectly involved. I also hope it’ll raise funds for Emmanuel House: a wonderful Nottingham charity who deal with this growing problem. It’s their fortieth anniversary this year.

What are you looking for in entries?
Though the subject itself is homelessness, it’s open to interpretation, and we hope to see a varied range of submissions. One entrant is spending some time in a soup kitchen to photograph the staff and people who use their services; I think this is an amazing perspective to showcase and not one that would initially come to mind.

Hopefully the submissions will be varied, as there’s no restriction on medium or methodology. You could photograph architecture, food, protests, housing and, of course, people. If someone wanted to create a series of photographs then that’s great too. I’m looking forward to seeing what people come up with.

There can be a fine line between artistic documentation and ‘poverty porn’. What’s important to consider when it comes to the honouring of subjects when photographing?
This is a really important question. I would urge people to know the law and also respect their subject wholeheartedly. If you want to enter and you have one or many homeless people in the photograph then you should be asking their permission. Personally, I would engage with people and explain why you would like to photograph them, and respect their wishes if they aren’t interested.

How did you get into photography yourself?
I studied photography at university and haven’t really looked back. I was initially studying computing, but when I saw work from photography students in the local bar I was hooked, and managed to change my course. I’m a wedding photographer mainly so this is very different for me.

We’ve seen an increase in homelessness over the past few years. How do you think the arts and creativity in general can be used to help combat the issues faced by the homeless community?
Art is subjective and that’s great, but one of things that has struck me, especially about photography as a medium, is its ability to effect or document social change. The pure power and emotion that even one image can convey is no small thing.

The arts have the potential to be used as one of modern society’s truer social justice platforms. Music, photography, video and illustration resonate with us on many levels and can, and should, be used to advance us a culture. We don’t get everything right, but when perspectives and points of view are showcased through the arts, it can be a force for positive change.

The final submission date for entries into Homeless is Friday 15 September, and it costs £10 for each entry. All proceeds go to Emmanuel House, and you can enter by following the link below. Prizes include half a day’s photography training, plus a film camera with a roll of film. Any enquiries, hit Dan up on

Winners will be showcased at the Emmanuel House 40th Anniversary Ball at Nottingham Council House on Thursday 19 October, and the images will be entered into auction in framed prints.

Homeless photography competition website

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