The Bondway project started in 1999 when I began working at the Housing shelter for the homeless as a volunteer. Bondway Housing Shelter was situated in Vauxhall, London and was primarily for middle aged to older men who their outreach team felt were more vulnerable living rough. It was the powerful happenings and the people of the shelter that drove me to document Bondway. At first sight I saw that most of the residents were paralytic drunk, people shouting indescribable words, people slouched against the wall, one man bundled on the floor laying in his own urine, the smell was terrible.
Being a documentary photographer naturally I wanted to photograph the shelter and detail the happenings of this compelling place and the characters within. I started to sit and talk to the people and soon began to realise the other problems these people face, such as mental illness and disabilities. Initially I was only taking a few photographs a day as the residents were not sure of my intentions, or of me, but as their confidence grew and my whereabouts became common, I starting to get some powerful photographs and was allowed the liberty to document the shelter’s residents in my own way. I wanted to bring these men to the surface and push their characters onto people using photography. I wanted to emphasise people’s mental problems, intensify the smell, expose their concealed community showing the problems and fun of their alcoholism and more importantly document Bondway in the most truthful way possible. I wanted to tell the story of the Bondway Housing Shelter through photography.
The general public are used to seeing the homeless in doorways or on street corners, most just walk by, pretending not to see. I wanted to show these homeless people in their own environment.
With my photographs I try to bring these characters to the surface and create an essence of Bondway’s atmosphere by showing the residents natural and relaxed in their own surroundings. Something that we are not used to seeing. Most photography that documents homeless life is usually set up – take a photo, put a pound in the pot. None of the images I took were purposely set, they’re simply of the moment, documenting as true as can be what was happening at that time. As well as photographing the people I recorded the little details like nicotine stained fingers and the dirt below a bed space all of which come to create an unusual and powerful story of life in the shelter. To describe the residents and the feel of Bondway was too intricate to explain in words but I hope my photographs give an incite into life in this shelter.
The project went on to win the 2000 Jack Jackson Photography Prize, which was open to over 20,000 postgraduates each year. It was displayed at the 2001 Focus on Imaging (now called The Photography Show) at the Birmingham NEC and was published in many magazines and papers at the time.
The pictures were also taken on 35mm film and shown here are copies of some of the prints which unfortunately do not show the true quality of the prints. If you would to sponsor a full reproduction of this project in book or exhibition format, please contact me.