Homeless and human: a photographic series

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Homeless

Zack Vitiello

We see them sleeping on the sidewalks and begging for loose change on the street, but we rarely glance twice. Third-year media, information and technoculture student Zack Vitiello took it upon himself to capture the homeless in his photography series, “Homeless and Human.”

Vitiello started out with filmmaking as a hobby four years ago, but became drawn to photography as an art soon after.

“There’s something about wanting to capture one moment in time,” Vitiello explains. “You don’t even need moving pictures; you just need one image to tell a story.”

What started out as an assignment for his documentary media class, became a personal statement on his beliefs about homelessness.

“My goal was not to document homeless people, but to document the way that I feel about homeless people and homelessness in general ... My point [was] to present the idea that homeless people are the same as people like you and me.”

Sleeping on the streets

Shot in one day along Queen Street West in downtown Toronto, Vitiello says many of the people he spoke to in the photographs, such as the bearded man in the top photo shown, are not homeless. The purpose of his series was not to document the sadness and desperation of the homeless, but to illustrate appearance isn’t everything.

“Anybody can be homeless. It can happen to anybody. You can lose your job, you can have one too many drinks and become an alcoholic ... We automatically assume people are homeless, but quite a few of [the people in the photographs] aren’t. It’s just to illustrate that if you put someone in the right clothes and right scenery, we assume they’re homeless,” Vitiello says.

“Homeless people are humans as well. We have to reconsider the way we interact with them.”

Part of his inspiration comes from his cousin who has been homeless for a while.

“Nobody knows where he is or what he’s doing. Sometimes I feel like if I look close enough, maybe I’ll see him under a beard or something.”

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