Kids Picture Homelessness

Views of the world’s homelessness are vividly displayed in the Home/Life exhibit.

Home/Life: 121 kids from 11 cities photograph their world is the harvest of a global photography project. In 2002, homeless children in cities around the world -- including Nairobi, Moscow, Jakarta, New Delhi, Johannesburg, Paris and New York -- were dispatched to their cities' streets armed with digital cameras and open-ended instructions to photograph the scenes and spaces that shape their lives. Over the next few months, more than one hundred kids, ages six to twenty, took 15,000 shots. A sampling of those photographs has been compiled in Home/Life, an exhibit currently on display at Denver's PlatteForum Gallery.

The photos -- which also appear in a companion book and at www.homelessworld.org -- are a rich, often alarming, assortment. They include street-begging toddlers in New Delhi, glue-sniffing young men wandering the deserts of Nairobi and groups of schoolkids overjoyed just to be in a classroom, however dilapidated. The images -- accompanied by commentary from the young photographers, some of whom demonstrate a real artist's eye -- present colorful, detail-rich, intimate tableaux of everyday life. In most of them, poverty is vividly and authentically captured -- not as an abstraction, but as part of the children's existence.

Home/Life is a product of the Rotterdam-based Homeless World Foundation. In Denver, the exhibit is sponsored by the Children, Youth and Environments Center for Research, a new program through the College of Architecture and Planning at the University of Colorado at Denver. Home/Life is a fitting introduction to the Center, which explores and seeks to improve the relationship between children and their environments.

A street scene in Nairobi, photographed by a 
homeless teen named Elvis.
A street scene in Nairobi, photographed by a homeless teen named Elvis.

"We see the kids in places that are filthy, contaminated, really squalid-looking. You can really start to imagine how someone's physical space affects them," says Darcy Varney, special-projects coordinator for CYE. "It's a great way to really look at homelessness in other cultures and think about it in an American context. Our poverty isn't quite as dire here. Our homelessness is more hidden."

 
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