Thursday, 11 June 2015

Homeless City Ads Picture wins runner up place in the Big Noise Festival's Photo Competition

A photograph of a well-known rough sleeper spot near Waterloo Bridge, one of a series of six, won 2nd place in the Big Noise Festival's Photography competition and will be exhibited as part of the festival on Saturday 13th June at the Coronet in Elephant and Castle, London.

The photo which mixes the image of a rough sleeper place at the edge of the Thames with a series of icons from the Homeless City Guide was taken by art group Hydra Projects.

Kevin Andrews one of the founders of Hydra Projects said “the photo was edited to look like a picture from an accommodation listing website like Gumtree or Where to Sleep. A description was then added drawn from the publicity material for the nearby Waldorf Hilton Hotel”. The photo is an attempt to point to the irony of the close location of rough sleeper places and five star hotels. Andrews continues “it’s the kind of thing we take for granted in modern cities because we have become numb to it. The photograph tries to question that numbness.”

The text accompanying the photo states:

“2 bed accommodation near the Waldorf Hilton, Aldwych

Explore London's West End from this unusual accommodation close to the iconic Waldorf Hilton hotel in Theaterland, 5 minutes' walk from fantastic shopping in Covent Garden. Dine in style next to the River Thames, de-stress with the wide open vistas or even go for a refreshing dip.  Visit top London attractions within a mile radius of this central London accommodation, including the London Eye and Trafalgar Square or enjoy a the bustle of theaterland. Situated where the city meets the West end the accommodation is perfect for business or leisure travelers alike.

Main facts:
- Good food thrown away here
- Potential for work
- Dangerous neighborhood
- An attack happened here
- Message board nearby
- Good place to drink and smoke"

This Homeless City Guide is a regular feature of the magazine Pavement. This is a language invented for homeless people. The idea being that they use it to communicate with one another about features of the city. The icons were designed by Emily Read and Chen Hsu in 2007. Their work is described as a modern day version of the centuries old language of the Hobo Code, as they say “The homeless can use this series of simple symbols to communicate with each other about safety, shelter, and free food by inscribing them with chalk on sidewalks, buildings, and other surfaces”. But according to Andrews the language is not used. He says “this isn't very surprising; it’s based on a romantic notion of what homelessness is”.

Asked whether the adverts posted on accommodation websites received many replies Andrews says “Not really, they were never on long enough to attract that much attention”. Somehow Gumtree and other sites were able to spot the ads quite quickly and remove them and block me from posting more.” He says “I had more success with postcards that I made up and placed at the locations, they all went very quickly and I think provide a lasting record of the work”. The project also has its own fake accommodation listing website where people can book accommodation online.

The photo was chosen from hundreds submitted to the competition run in aid of the Big Issue Foundation.  The selection panel included actress and photographer, Kat Prescott, Stephen Robertson, CEO of The Big Issue Foundation, Spencer Rowell of Uncertain States and Eleanor Wemyss and Carla Sinclair of The Big Noise Festival.