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Photographer’s image of homelessness charity that supported him goes on display in Preston rough sleeping hotspot

Posted on - 14th May, 2023 - 12:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Arts, Charities, City Centre, People, Preston City Centre, Preston News, Proud Preston, What's On in Preston
Lee Radford with the exhibition photograph he styled
Lee Radford with the exhibition photograph he styled, capturing the character of the charity that helped him progress from homelessness, Emmaus Preston

A professional photographer who became homeless during the pandemic has captured a striking image of the Emmaus Preston charity that supports him.   

The work of art created by Lee Radford encapsulates the character of homelessness charity Emmaus Preston, which supported him when he became homeless.  

It has been handpicked to go on display in the city centre exhibition, Art on the Streets of Preston, outside the former BHS building in Fishergate until the end of May, close to an area populated by rough sleepers.

Read more: Local artists delighted to see their artwork on display in Preston city centre

The portrait shows Rock, who is supported by Emmaus Preston and helps in the charity’s shops, surrounded by unique and one-off artefacts from the donated and new items sold to fund support for its community of people building back from homelessness.  

The composition was put together by Lee, who first received support from Emmaus when he became homeless, through a combination of work drying up as an event photographer during the pandemic, ill health and the end of a relationship.

Read more: More people rough sleeping on a single night in Preston than anywhere else in Lancashire

Lee said: “It is important to remember that being homeless is often a very small part of someone’s overall life experience and achievements, and although we all make judgements on first impressions, these judgements should be tempered by engagement and empathy. 

“I decided to submit this photo because I believe it has captured the persona that the subject Rock shows to the world; his individual style, a sense of the vintage with a splash of the original bling.   

“It was a set piece studio shot, which involved sourcing all props and painting the backdrop, which took around five hours. As Rock was such a good subject the shoot itself only took five minutes.”  

Lee’s photography has previously won acclaim under the name of his former business, Photo Horizon, awarded by the platform Viewbug where he shares his work. Lee’s picture of a shell entitled Mermaids won the Women’s International section.  

Through work-based opportunities involving the preparation of new and second-hand donations ready to go on sale with Emmaus, Lee has been able to build on his photography skills with the view of restarting his business in the future.  

Art on the Streets of Preston features the work of 15 artists and photographers
Art on the Streets of Preston features the work of 15 artists and photographers including Lee, whose image is seen here on the left

Commenting on Lee’s work, Art on the Street exhibition organiser Garry Cook of Enjoy The Show said: “As work was voted for by a group of independent artists called the Brewtime Collective, there was no one reason why Lee’s work was chosen, other than people liked it.  

“I have a background in photography and when I personally put this on the wall, I saw people stopping, looking and pointing out Lee’s work as their favourite, which included a couple of photographers.  

“Homelessness is a problem in Preston. People have been camping under this image. Only last weekend there was a tent. Like Lee’s image, there is more to becoming homeless than first meets the eye. It’s a more complex problem than face value.   

“The photo of Rock is really engaging and if people like the image and want to find out more about the charity that has been helping, then that’s the good to come out of this.   

“These kinds of images change people’s perspectives of homelessness. All the best art has meaning behind it and reasons for it. That’s when art has its biggest impact, when it has this kind of depth.”

Read more: Preston Caribbean Carnival awarded funding from Arts Council England

Garry continued: “I think it’s the tones and the colours matching, which I have since learned from Lee was quite deliberate. The picture just really grabs you, such as Rock’s eye contact from looking at the camera. Choosing the size of the particular items in the image and thinking about what they might mean, gives the picture depth. Ultimately, it’s a pleasing image that people might just look at and take in, perhaps not even realising why they like it at first.  

“As for the content, charity shops are a great place to go for photographers to find props because here they can get old items for studio portraits, and this is exactly what Lee has done. It’s really good to see this sort of work being photographed in Preston.”

The Art on the Streets portrait of Rock is part of a much larger project for Lee. He plans to capture a series of photographs based around the characters involved in charity shop work.  

To find out more about homelessness charity Emmaus Preston and the support available, visit the Emmaus website.

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