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Homeless woman sitting on a pavement

Photographer Anthony Dawton captures London’s homeless

Homeless man holding books and looking at camera, by Photographer Anthony Dawton
BY THE WAYSIDE: A man living on the streets gives a thousand yard stare (Credit: Anthony Dawton, Not London)

Photographer Anthony Dawton believes working in London is more chaotic than refugee camps abroad. 

His new image series, Not London, features portraits of homeless people on the streets of the capital.

Dawton finds taking pictures for NGOs like UNICEF and Save the Children to be well-organised in comparison. 

He said: “There’s no one in London in charge of the people on the streets.

“If you go to a big refugee camp in the Middle East, the NGO provides you with a guide. There’s a rhythm to the day.”

Despite the anarchic urban environment, he establishes a relationship with his subjects, selecting them on sight as he cycles through London’s boroughs. 

Only a small percentage of those approached refuse to be photographed, and most are happy to be spoken to.

Dawton said: “I always promise I’ll return with at least one print of them – they’re delighted to have them.”

On the 300,000 households made homeless since the pandemic, he said: “I don’t have the answer but I don’t think there is one.

“I’m a photographer. I’m not a social worker or a politician with any influence. 

“I feel I’m just photographing in a tradition of photographers here and in the United States that has been going on since Lewis Hine in New York in the late 19th century, photographing the homeless, the dispossessed.

“There’s no final way of dealing with the problem, people are on the streets for a variety of reasons and I’m not sure what any government, charity or social worker can do. It’s so fundamental.”

Dawton highlights the sobering fact that it doesn’t take much to become homeless; a run of misfortune can land even the most privileged individuals on the streets.

As for his own subjects, he said: “They express a dignity and nobility that is a function of what they’ve been through.

“I find that extraordinary. If just a few people hear the voice in the pictures I’d be very happy.”

Anthony Dawton’s book, Not London, is available at https://notlondon.uk/

Image credit: Anthony Dawton, Not London

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