22nd November 2018

‘We’re All The Same’: an exhibition to humanise homelessness

Louis Haddad reviews the photography exhibition, ‘We Are All One’, which sought to humanise the pandemic of homelessness; an all-too-familiar problem in Manchester
‘We’re All The Same’: an exhibition to humanise homelessness
Photo: Flickr @ Garry Knight

When entering the We’re All The Same exhibit in 1 Spinningfields, you’re instantly struck by its size. The small space is cosy, intimate, and touching. An absorbing array of  selected photographs are suspended by pegs, where bold colour, forms and characters hang in balanced tandem. The viewer walks into a space where homelessness has a human face and dignity; where photographic expression sheds a light on greater human experience.

The essence of this exhibition is to show that hope and aspiration are inextinguishable realities of every part of our society. This exhibition’s message is truly resonant and necessary, especially in the face of the daily dehumanisation of homeless people and the immobilising effects of austerity policies.

We’re All The Same was just one of the many events of the ‘With One Voice‘ International Arts and Homelessness Summit, which took place in Greater Manchester between 12th-18th November. This summit saw an estimated 20,000 members of the public and 250 delegates from 15 countries come together to explore and celebrate how arts can tackle the issue of homelessness in modern society.

Certain charitable organisations played a critical role in making all this possible. Pledge, a charity that helps fight poverty in Greater Manchester, curated this exhibition. MASH, a charity that supports women who are sex workers in Greater Manchester exhibited 12 anonymous photos with the theme of ambiguous portraiture; an invitation to the viewer to apply the lens of their own perspective and imagination.

The importance of giving a voice to homeless people is paramount to this exhibition. Ilisa Stack’s Raw exhibit challenges stereotypes by showing the differing faces of homelessness. The selection of portraits from the series shows a variety of people captured in stark black-and-white rawness, with the exposure making subjects pop from the frame.

Although the choice of location for this exhibition was slightly ironic, within one of the most exclusive luxury office blocks in one of the most exclusive districts of the city, Manchester is a suitable setting for this festival. The city is the base for many projects that use the arts to tackle homelessness, as part of the Manchester Homelessness Charter.  The cultural sector is making a widespread comittment to support people in dealing with the experience of homelessness.

The aim of this exhibition was to show that underneath all of the trappings of modern life, we are all the same. We all live through the same passions, pains and imperfections that are part of the human condition. By realising this, judging a person by their current circumstances of homelessness is replaced by the overpowering recognition of our common humanity. We see people for where they’ve come from, and where they are going.

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