An award-winning photographer is giving a voice to Dublin’s homeless through his photography blog.
Mark Nixon, originally from Belfast, has been based in the capital for 13 years — winning awards for portrait and magazine photography — and three years ago started photographing Dublin’s homeless population in soup kitchens, as well as on the street.
“I originally just wanted to give something back,” says Mark. “What I wanted to do was, when you walk past someone sitting in the street you might be a bit wary — it’s this ‘othering’ — and I wanted to break down that barrier, and show that they’re just human beings.”
The photo blog, which runs on Facebook under the name Shoot The Homeless, features stunning portraits of rough sleepers, those in emergency accommodation, and volunteers for the charities who help them.
Each picture comes with a long caption, describing their life before and after they became homeless, their occupation, how they became homeless, and other details about their lives.
“I started with a list of questions,” says Mark. “Sometimes, answers will lead to a specific question, or sometimes they say something so interesting I put the question in after, which means I sound smarter!
“In the last few years there’s a lot more kids. There didn’t used to be, but now I often see them at the soup kitchen, meeting their friends and getting some food, they all come together, it’s kind of like a social thing, but definitely there are more kids there. I can’t imagine it, nights when you’re at home and it’s freezing outside, all I can think is imagine trying to cuddle up and get warm in a doorway — it makes you grateful.”
Mark says his next challenge will be to photograph those living in emergency accommodation.
“It’s funny, I have my own Facebook page and it’s really small, but the homeless page just took off,” he says. “Certain soup kitchens will share the photos on their pages and the responses just kept getting bigger.
“My most popular post was a few weeks back, a girl who cut hair in the homeless shelter. She volunteered there, but went on to tell me she had been homeless a few years back, and her brother had been homeless too, and subsequently died, and now she volunteers to give back.
“I kept turning my recorder off, and then she’d tell me something else and I’d turn it back on, she was so interesting, and the response was just amazing.”