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August 2011

A group of photographers, led by the legendary US photojournalist David Burnett, have taught four homeless vendors of the street magazine, The Big Issue in Scotland, to take documentary images and shoot film for an exhibition as part of an ongoing project to support positive social change around the world.

The group, called Photographers for Hope, puts together photography masters and relatively inexperienced documentary shooters with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to help them to tell stories through images and “promote the empowerment of people at the bottom of the economic pyramid”. This latest project, 'Eyes on the Street', took place in Glasgow, Scotland, last month and followed last year’s coverage of the Homeless World Cup and various sports programmes in Rio's slums in Brazil, which aimed to promote healthier, safer and better communities. Photographers for Hope is now planning a new project in Bangladesh later this year.


Please click on the film window above to watch a film about four homeless people in Glasgow who were taught to document their lives through the medium of photography.

The four homeless vendors in Glasgow – Malky, Robert, Joan and Daniel – were each given a Canon IXUS 200 IS digital compact camera and coached by Burnett and his team to shoot images and video that documented their lives. The results formed part of an exhibition at a public event during the annual conference of the International Network of Street Papers (INSP), sponsored by BBC Scotland. The exhibition can also be seen at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow until the end of August.

Anna Wang, founder of Photographers for Hope, told CPN: “Photographers almost always work alone. These workshops give professional and amateur photographers the chance to do something really interesting and learn from each other, and masters like David Burnett.”

Wang’s background is as a communications consultant for NGOs working in areas such as malaria and global health. She saw an opportunity that would solve the problems of NGOs not having the budget to buy good quality images for publicity, and aspiring documentary photographers not having the opportunity to cover interesting stories and improve their skills.

“The project in Glasgow also had such a powerful positive effect on Malky, Robert, Joan and Daniel,” Wang told CPN. “They said for the first time they weren’t ignored. At the BBC exhibition's opening they were all being interviewed – they were the centre of attention. I was so moved by Malky’s pictures of where he used to sleep. I think these pictures change, if only a little bit, the way we think about homelessness. Joan is legally blind, but she could see just enough to take the pictures, and she knew what she wanted to take. It helped that the camera was so easy to use.”

Photographers for Hope is a not-for-profit photographers' collective. Each NGO involved in the projects is given 30 to 40 images on licence to use in their campaigns, with the photographer retaining the copyright. For more information go to the Photographers for Hope website.