Regardless if you live in a house, apartment, condo, car or out on the streets you are a human that thinks, feels and loves. Unfortunately, the homeless are often seen as ‘others,’ different somehow than people who live under a roof. In reality they are the same as you and I, just living a life full of different circumstances and situations.
Socially aware photographer Aaron Draper takes vibrant color portraits of the homeless in California to remind the world they are humans with a heart and soul too. The California-native is a social activist working to document the homeless in a way that is “as visually appealing as possible in a society that is visually demanding.” He calls his social project the Underexposed series.
In Draper’s own words, “When something is underexposed, it means it’s lacking light; there are few details in the shadows.” Draper’s goal is to bring homeless people out of the shadows so the greater population can better understand their plight.
“I use lighting as a way to interest the viewer in the subjects shown in Underexposed.” Draper also uses lighting to better illuminate his subjects, “Bringing them into the light and out of the shadows for others to view and appreciate.”
Draper is using his talents to help the hundreds of thousands of homeless people currently out on US streets. He writes, “When it comes to social activism, you achieve greater public awareness by communicating hope as opposed to hopelessness.”
According to 2014 statistics collected by endhomelessness.org, 578,424 homeless people live in the United States, and 177,373 of these individuals live somewhere not suited for human habitation, for instance on the streets or in an abandoned building. Of the total 578,424 homeless individuals, 50,000 are homeless veterans.
Draper has sought a lot of inspiration from great novelists of the past. He writes on his website, “Steinbeck has influenced me and informed my view of the world. In Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath, I was introduced to a philosophy regarding society, about economic disparity and Steinbeck’s efforts to shed light on the problems of the poor in our society. Steinbeck hoped to bring about societal change, just as I hope to enable people to gain a more humane view of the homeless.”
“If I’m able to affect the way that one person views the homeless, I will have considered my series a success.”