California Photographer Captures Lit Portraits Of Homeless To Remind Us They’re People Too

Photographer Aaron Draper believes it is the duty of artists to use their talents to illuminate social issues and inspire change.


Do you believe art can change the world? Photographer Aaron Draper does, and he’s using that passion to creatively capture lit portraits of California’s homeless population. For his Underexposed series, the artist and social activist is seeking to make those who dwell on the streets “as visually appealing as possible.”

He shared on his website that the beloved American author John Steinbeck is one of his inspirations:

“Steinbeck has influenced me and informed my view of the world. In Grapes of Wrath and Mice of Men, I was introduced to a philosophy regarding society, about economic disparity and Steinbeck’s efforts to shed light on the problems of the poor in our society. Steinbeck hoped to bring about societal change, just as I hope to enable people to gain a more humane view of the homeless.”

Credit: Aaron Draper

Credit: Aaron Draper

Credit: Aaron Draper

Credit: Aaron Draper

Draper believes it is the duty of artists to use their talents to illuminate social issues and inspire change. “I use lighting as a way to interest the viewer in the subjects shown,” Draper says. “I hope to enable people to gain a more humane view of the homeless.”

Credit: Aaron Draper

Credit: Aaron Draper

Credit: Aaron Draper

Credit: Aaron Draper

Credit: Aaron Draper

Credit: Aaron Draper

The story of each individual is etched in the lines of their face, the fabric of their clothes, and conveyed through the way they hold their body.

Credit: Aaron Draper

Credit: Aaron Draper

Credit: Aaron Draper

Credit: Aaron Draper

Credit: Aaron Draper

Credit: Aaron Draper

“When it comes to social activism, you achieve greater public awareness by communicating hope as opposed to hopelessness”

Credit: Aaron Draper

Credit: Aaron Draper

Credit: Aaron Draper

Credit: Aaron Draper

“When something is underexposed, it means it’s lacking light; there are few details in the shadows.”

Credit: Aaron Draper

Credit: Aaron Draper

Credit: Aaron Draper

Credit: Aaron Draper

“If I’m able to affect the way that one person views the homeless, I will have considered my series a success.”

Credit: Aaron Draper

Credit: Aaron Draper

According to endhomelessness.org, 578,424 homeless individuals lived on the streets in 2014. of those, 177,373 “lived in a place not meant for human habitation such as the street or an abandoned building”; about 50,000 of those 578,424 are homeless veterans.

Credit: Aaron Draper

Credit: Aaron Draper

Draper’s extraordinary work is helping to illuminate the homelessness crisis. If you believe change is needed, share this article and be the change by getting involved.

You can also follow his work on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

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