Steve in Rupert Street, Soho in 2016


“A social documentary photography project done in partnership with Shelter which gives a voice to the voiceless in society. Through iconic images and personal testimony Outsiders engages a broad public with the stories of people who are experiencing bad housing and homelessness and provides insights into this growing problem from the perspective of those who are living it. Outsiders encourages marginalised communities to share their stories and challenges public preconceptions about those they come across on the street.”

They all have a story, but nobody is listening. It is time to change all that.

A growing problem

Paul outside John Lewis in Oxford Street, London

Homelessness and poor-quality housing is an increasing problem in the UK with hundreds of thousands of people caught up in some form of homelessness or trapped in bad housing. In collaboration with the charity Shelter this project shines a light on the issues facing homeless people from their perspective and empowers them to tell their own stories. In 1968 Nick Hedges was commissioned by Shelter to produce an enduring record of bad housing conditions at the time. He was shocked to the core by what he found. This new project will seek to highlight what, if anything, has changed with the added element of capturing oral testimony from those involved and preserving this in perpetuity.

Outsiders is a long-term project which will challenge the myth that only those who we see on the streets are homeless.

Project objectives

  • Produce an archive of exhibition-quality photographs of homelessness and bad housing across the UK.
  • Establish an oral record of experiences of homelessness, amplifying the voices of marginalised communities and capturing their stories. Preserve these in an archive in perpetuity for research and other purposes.
  • Stimulate debate and raise awareness of these issues across a broad public audience.
  • Curate the images and stories into an exhibition with associated public programme.
  • Present the images and stories in book form and/or via a website
  • Challenge stereotypes of homelessness and encourage interaction and understanding
  • Empower homeless people through creativity by giving them key skills in photography.

You can make a difference

Sam with his cat Buffy outside Liverpool Street station in London

The Outsiders project is founded on the principles of mutual respect, tolerance, the nurturing of cross-cultural understanding and the empowerment of marginalised communities to tell their own stories free from external reinterpretation. In addition to capturing photographs and audio testimony from participants the project will also include the delivery of workshops to Shelter service users to teach them photography, empower them through the creative process and where possible have their photographs exhibited locally. This type of process can have an immensely powerful impact on personal wellbeing, create long-term bonds through the power of a shared experience and rebuild the self-confidence of those who have been forgotten by society.

Everyone has a right to a safe home and everyone has something to offer if they are given the opportunity to realise their potential. To do this they must have a safe and stable home environment. Outsiders seeks to break down the barriers which depersonalise the homeless and remind us that it could be any of us if the circumstances were different. It is a call to action to join Shelter in tackling what has become a national emergency.

Method and media

Outsiders is a multi-media project combining visual imagery with audio testimony.

The Screen Shot 2019-09-02 at 10.11.57project will use state of the art digital cameras together with vintage film cameras in both 35mm and medium format which will then be scanned to digital.

Participants will all be volunteers with the goal of capturing their lived experiences through intimate contextual environmental portraiture reflecting the actual conditions they are living in on a day to day basis. There will be a proper balance of power between the photographer and the participants to ensure the project is not in any way exploitative, and participants will be treated with respect at all times as the authoritative voices on the issues they have faced and are facing.


Outsiders will cover five main groups with an emphasis on participants having input and control over their portrayal. The groups will be woven into a journey through homelessness using people’s lived experiences and connections to locations in each city identified by participants as having meaning to them.

The main groups in the journey will include:

  • Entrenched rough sleepers
  • People experiencing poor quality accommodation
  • Women’s support
  • Transition from homelessness to a stable home environment
  • Creative expression and empowerment

Call for participants

Outsiders will be working with and photographing communities in Bristol, London and Manchester in partnership with Shelter. The success of the project depends on being able to engage a diverse range of participants in the project who are willing to share their stories and have their photographs taken preferably via contextual environmental portraiture of their day to day lives. Participants will be treated as equal partners in the project, will be given copies of the photographs, an invitation to any exhibition in which they are featured and a signed copy of the book if one is produced as part of the project.

Taking part in the project will be an opportunity to have your voice amplified and allow you to send a message to people in power. It will help to break down barriers and raise awareness amongst the general public of the complex issues surrounding homelessness and its impact on people as individuals. By taking part you will be contributing to improving social cohesion and mutual understanding within communities at a local and national level. Homeless people often say that the worst thing about being on the street is being actively ignored by passers-by and treated as something less than human. Becoming a participant and highlighting the humanity of those who have experienced homelessness will help to change perceptions about homeless people and encourage the public to engage with them and be less judgemental when confronted with the issues facing people who have been caught up in homelessness.

If you are interested in becoming a participant and helping to make the project a success please contact the photographer direct via the contact details below, or contact your Shelter hub office in Manchester, Bristol or London.

Corporate partners

Outsiders will initially be working with and photographing marginalised communities in Bristol, London and Manchester but the overall scale and impact of the project depends to a large extent on raising the requisite funding to cover expenses. It is estimated that the first phase of the project will take around two years to complete and will involve building long-term relationships with participants who are geographically-dispersed, so the time commitments are considerable. The Outsiders project is now seeking a number of select corporate sponsors who want to become involved. It is a unique opportunity for businesses to exercise corporate social responsibility in the knowledge that they will be making a real difference to the lives of people less fortunate than themselves, while also helping to create a legacy archive which will endure for decades after the project is complete. Becoming a sponsor will also offer an opportunity to counter the negative news stories that often come to light when it comes to the relationships between businesses and homeless people.The project offers a great opportunity to demonstrate your business has a commitment to social issues at a time when the UK is facing a crisis in terms of homelessness and bad housing. A contribution to the project will have a direct and positive impact on homeless people in the UK and contribute to improving social cohesion and mutual understanding within communities at a local and national level.

Homeless people often say that the worst thing about being on the street is being actively ignored by passers-by and treated as something less than human. Supporting the Outsiders project will show your commitment to helping to change perceptions about homeless people and encourage the public to engage with them and offer them a momentary lapse from the enduring bleakness of a life where nobody seems to care.

All sponsors for the project will receive thanks and acknowledgement via social media and on any website, exhibition or book that arises from the project. Lead sponsors will also be able to use select images from the project in corporate publications such as annual reports etc. and staff from lead sponsors will also be invited to any exhibition launches. Arrangements can be made with lead sponsors to display photographs from the project at corporate buildings and to have the photographer present at any opening of these displays.