Wayne is a photographer, St Mungo’s resident and student at our Recovery College. This is his story of his experience of homelessness has influenced his photography and how our Recovery College has helped in his recovery journey.
I started photography when I was homeless and used it to escape from my thoughts, my location and my situation. I used to be addicted to a lot of different drugs and I used them to cope with my stress and depression. Now though, I use photography as a positive thing to drive myself forwards. When I’m focused on my photography it allows me to express myself in a way that I can’t articulate and it allows me to deal with subjects that I’m having trouble with.
I also use my photography to document different times in my life. A lot of my work comes from when I was sleeping on the streets. I use images to explain my situation to people and to show them what it was like as I find it hard to articulate what was going on. Most people have an assumption of what a homeless person should look like, behave like and what sort of mentality that person should have, which doesn’t reflect most of the people who are actually experiencing it for themselves. So I wanted to share and highlight what it’s actually like through my work.
I took this photograph called My Place when I was sleeping outside a homeless centre. I have anxiety and there were about 40 men sleeping there which made me feel really uncomfortable so I decided to spend the night outside. I walked around for about half an hour and I chose this spot next to a garage door as there were a few boxes there. I decided to take a photograph of me in my ‘natural habitat’ with my sleeping bag and the view of the street.
This photograph is called Morning and was taken in an overnight shelter I stayed in during the winter. I use it as a reminder of how I used to wake up feeling insecure and afraid in a room full of strangers with only a chair between us. Through my photography it allowed me to overcome those feelings and show people a different perspective of what it’s actually like when you’re homeless.
Being homeless is hard enough, but if you’re suffering from a mental illness it makes it even more difficult to get help. The people who are more coherent and confident are able to speak to the staff and get the help they need. Whereas there are people like myself who don’t have the courage, confidence or capacity to engage in conversations or ask for help, so they will ultimately end up back on the streets. Photography has helped me to express myself and to reclaim my voice and my story.
I take part in different Recovery College sessions, including life coaching and wellbeing, music, photography, and movement classes. I’ve found it’s really healthy to be part of a community and they’ve helped to increase my confidence and have opened up new opportunities for me. The photography sessions have helped me improve my craft of photography and find inspiration. We are all part of the same lesson, but it’s really interesting to see other people’s perspectives and it inspires me to try new things or look at a situation in a different light. The classes in general have been fruitful and really interesting. If I hadn’t been doing the classes, god knows where I would be right now.
My work has been shown in a few different places and I sell my photographs to the public. I hope that when someone views my work they can remind themselves to have an awareness of and be mindful towards their neighbour and their fellow human beings. I want to encourage people to see hope, as some people are complicated and diverse but that does not mean they can’t accomplish something when they are given the chance to focus.
I think when the people see a homeless person they become numb because, unfortunately, it’s so common. I think people need be able to view a situation from someone else’s point of view and feel the things that the homeless person may be feeling and to understand this.