Everyone is a rockstar - no living situation can change that.
“Who are you?” is a question photographer Nigel Skeet asks homeless residents in Redding, California for his Homeless Rock Star Project. He does this not to dwell on their suffering, but to allow them to share their story for the world to hear.
Many of them have never been questioned so thoroughly about who they are. They haven’t been asked what their favorite movie is, or what kind of music they like to listen to. But during what the photographer calls an ‘INNERview,” the answers to all those questions and more become the foundation for a professional series of portraits that bring out the best of Redding, California’s homeless population.
As shared on the ‘Homeless Rockstars’ website, the mission is to: “unapologetically Confront the stigma, Promote the underdog and Lead the way in restoring the relationship between the homeless and the community at large.”
“When we INNERview them, the questions are designed to break down barriers and spark a conversation. The questions and answers may seem boring or ‘normal’ to you and I, but that’s exactly the point,” Skeet told Good News Network. “Most of these people have never been asked these questions before, especially by members of the general public. This is one of the elements that spark that feeling of hope.”
Before the men and women pose for their pictures, they sit down for a hair and makeup session – a first for many of them.
During this time, they are able to share stories about their life and indulge the photographer in personal bits about themselves. For example, Cheryl (photographed, top left) has a knack for playing the harmonica. She loves the movie Phantom of the Opera and derives pleasure from eating miniature watermelons with yogurt. Before she was invited into Skeet’s studio, she hadn’t had the opportunity to tell anyone those things in a long time.
“I had just become homeless and was alone for the first time, no family, no clothes. Being homeless and alone was all new to me,” she said. “I heard about this and thought to myself, ‘I need this!’ even though I didn’t know what to expect.”
Although Cheryl was self-conscious because some of her teeth are missing, makeup artist Bethany made her feel beautiful in no time. “It made me feel like I could do anything,” Cheryl said.
Now Cheryl is presently enrolled in a college program to become a guidance counselor for high-risk teens.
Mark (pictured above, top right) is another portrait subject who had been sleeping on the streets for quite some time before he participated in the project. Now the 21-year-old is a certified nursing assistant and has is own apartment.
“The photo shoot made me feel like I was worth something,” Mark said. “This project is so good because they talk to you and treat you like you’re human.”
When photographer Nigel Skeet first moved to LA, he was warned to ‘beware of the homeless problem’ in town. From then on the artist began bringing homeless individuals into his studio, interviewing them and treating them like he would his own friends. He even asks them to sign his studio wall before they leave.
“I wanted to create something specifically to show the community that these people are individuals with the same hopes, dreams and life experiences that we all have,” he said. “I was also shocked at how the entire atmosphere within the studio shifted once we got started.”
“We know that’s not who you are and we will remind the world of just that,” he said.
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