Leah Denbok's book, Nowhere to Call Home: Photographs and Stories of the Homeless, came to my attention when my library ordered a number of copies. Libraries are a warm or cool place where anyone can take a seat, read a book, use a computer and most importantly, find a friendly face. Such is the case at the branch I work in.
Leah Denbok was fourteen when she first began photographing the homeless. She had personal inspiration for her book, as her own mother was found wandering the streets of Calcutta as a three year old. Leah's father accompanied Leah as she met and spoke to the homeless they encountered on the streets of Toronto, Barrie, New York City and other North American cities.
Her goal? "I hope, through my photographs and stories, to humanize the homeless. I want to capture their dignity as human beings. So often, the homeless are viewed as sub-human creatures one dare not approach, let alone talk to them. I want to change this perception of them."
Denbok's photography is striking. High contrast black and white images highlight the lines in every face, the sorrow and the strength. The words accompanying each photo achieve Denbok's goal. It's impossible not to look at the photo, read the story and then stop and examine the photo again. Does your perception change? I find myself wondering where these people are today? Have their circumstances changed?
Denbok's other goal is to '...shine a spotlight on the plight of homelessness. Contrary to what many think, few homeless people are on the street by choice." An appendix is included listing organizations who are tackling homelessness.
And the profits made from the sale of this book? "All the profits from the sale of this book will go the the Salvation Army Barrie Bayside Mission Centre."
This is what a sixteen year old is doing. What can you do?