Home is Where the Heart Is: The City of Austin in the Eyes of the Homeless

Several years ago, I heard about a professional photographer who created portraits for houseless families. The concept moved me and prompted the conception of the Heart Is Where the Home Is project.

Several years ago, I heard about a professional photographer who created portraits for houseless families. The concept moved me and prompted the conception of the Heart Is Where the Home Is project. I wanted to see the city of Austin through the eyes of the homeless community, and explore the notion of "home" outside the structural definition. These desires manifested into the purchasing of disposable cameras and asking some of the members of the houseless population with whom I work to take pictures for week that focused on how they define "home."

The Heart Is Where the Home Is project aims to empower members of the homeless community through creative photography that depicts their day-to-day experiences. We handed out cameras to willing volunteers who are currently without houses. They took pictures that captured what the concept of "home" means to them. A week later, the cameras were collected and the film was developed.

All of the images were filled with smiling faces and beautiful Austin scenery. One of the photographers mentioned he has a knack for spotting heart shapes in any environment. He told me he's seen them everywhere for years. I'm sure you can imagine a particular shape that peppers his camera roll.

I believe the most powerful lesson I learned from this project from conception to execution is the gift of seeing through the eyes of another. There are many unfortunate stigmas surrounding the homeless community, and I believe this project brings these issues to light. My main mission in this endeavor was to bring dignity and empowerment to the homeless community. Based on their collective experiences, they seemed to really enjoy waking up every morning with the goal of finding meaningful places and people to freeze on film. One volunteer said, "It made me happy to start my day with that camera in my hand and know that I was a part of something important."

We are in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the production and printing of the images, and we will celebrate the pictures on April 4th at the Space12 Gallery.

This project has changed my life in so many ways, and I am so grateful to have met these amazing people. In the words of Frederick Buechner, “If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.”

This post is part of the series, Push for Good, GOOD's guide to crowdsourcing creative progress.


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