Exhibition documents life of people experiencing homelessness at Christmas

'Through My Eyes' is a collaboration between photographer Iain McLean and Simon Community Scotland.

A new exhibition documenting the life of people experiencing homelessness during the festive season has opened in Glasgow.

“Through My Eyes” is a collaboration between photographer Iain McLean and Simon Community Scotland which seeks to document the life of people experiencing homelessness during the festive season.

The project began with a collection of old digital cameras, given to a group of creative individuals who used them to capture the reality of rough sleeping, street begging and living in unstable accommodation.

Jai was one of five participants paid to capture her Christmas on film.

She said: “When I first started this project I had been homeless for quite some time. I was struggling with addiction and a nervous breakdown.

“One thing you realise when you’re homeless is…those silent screams, not everyone hears. You feel like you don’t exist.

“[The project] gave me connection and friendship, and it gave me something to focus on other than drinking every day, alone and homeless. I had my photos and was doing a bit more thinking. And that was nice.”

It’s part of a project headed up by Simon Community Scotland, and the results give pause for thought at a time when the world looks the other way.

Hannah Boyle, Women’s Centre Development Lead, said: “As a society we tend to become enveloped in joy at Christmas time, and sometimes we don’t notice someone who might be rough sleeping when we’re out doing our Christmas shopping. So it was really important for us to try and ensure people had a voice and had a way to show that to the world.

Taking inspiration from the ‘Out of Home’ exhibition carried out with people experiencing homelessness in London during the coronavirus pandemic, “Through My Eyes” provided an opportunity for participants to guide their own creative photography process, capturing images that summed up their day-to-day life in the city of Glasgow.

Moving between the city streets, to emergency accommodations in the midst of the harsh Glasgow climate, the images highlight moments that often go unnoticed when the world is looking the other way.

Shown for the first time in December in 2023 in Trongate 103, the images are accompanied by the words and thoughts of each photographer, bringing their stories to life.

Iain McLean, a professional photographer based in Glasgow who helped lead the project, said: “We ended up with over 600 images which is mind-blowing. There’s a mixture of grim reality and uplifting moments…but the main thing was it made me aware of how different people’s Christmases could be.”

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