Amazing Portraiture of the Homeless from Lee Jeffries


Amazing Portraiture of the Homeless from Lee Jeffries

I just today discovered some work by Lee Jeffries that brought me to full attention to my screen. After viewing all of them, I knew I had to share the link to his images. Some of you may know that I have photographed the Homeless many years ago now and when I took on that small project I was attacked and ridiculed by many who had no idea what the intent of my project was. I was also praised by many for the work and for helping these people out. They are just like us, we are all Human Beings living on this earth with one physical life and not all of us have it as easy as others. In my travels I have found that many Homeless were once living a decent life until something catastrophic pushed them over the edge with no way of returning to the life they once had.

Some experienced the death of a spouse or a chile and could not handle the loss. Some lost their jobs of 20+ years and then had nothing. Some were mentally ill and had no family to take care of them. A few were drug abusers who brought it all onto themselves but one thing remained constant, they lost all hope and were just walking the streets, living by dumpsters and waiting for their life to come to an end.

The images I took on 35mm film were raw, basic and honest. I approached these men and women on the street with a helping hand in the form of food, water, cash or clothing/blankets/pillows. I sat down with them and got to know them and why they were in the situation they were in. I spoke with them, laughed with them and even cried with a couple of them. I followed up with a few over a year and some were gone and some were still roaming the streets trying to survive. Some of my photos are HERE but they do not compare to the emotion, rawness and beauty of the images I saw today from Lee Jeffries. I do not know what he used to capture the images and I do not care, it does not matter.

I do not have permission to share his images here nor have I spoken with him (though I did send him a message), but I urge you to take a look at his gallery HERE. Amazing portraits.




  1. It’s too bad … looks like some really nice portraits, but masked by garish post processing. Apparently, I’m in the minority here, though, since it seems like a lot of people like the post-apocalyptic grunge look. Seems like this stuff has been around for a couple years now … I remember seeing endless shots of old Indian men with their curling gray beards with the Clarity slider cranked up to make them look craggier than a cliff face.

  2. great pictures indeed, but a bit to “polished” (processed) for my taste. For some it might help to “trancend” the original toughness of the subject, but for me, it keeps us at a distance. That artistic distanciation could be perceived as some kind of “bourgeois reappropriation” by some viewers……excuse my english, i am a french speaking montrealer. félicitations pour votre site!.

  3. I find Lee Jeffries’ images intruiging, though, because of the treatment he gave them, a bit contrived.

    Usually I don’t like this subject (the poor and destitute), because it’s too easy and reeks of touristey colonialism. There was a time when social realism really had a place. But reading what Lee has done to get to these images has won me over. I really admire the effort he put int them.

  4. I loved this set. Thank you for sharing, Steve, and thank you the Lee for capturing these (and presenting them so effectively, it must be said).

  5. I don’t pretend to know the reasons why everyone takes pictures of the homeless, but I find it a bit odd and honestly I’m kind of over it. I hope every .01£ that is made from a book/magazine/blog/newspaper photo of a homeless person goes to help them.

    Somehow I don’t think it’s the case.

    I know they are people too, etc…maybe it’s time to really help them because lord knows we have PLENTY of photographs of them.

  6. Honestly I prefer your homeless photographs Steve, they are retreats of human beings that you approached and helped. I am not sure if Mr. Lee has helped to those persons, probably yes, but I think in his case his focus was the photograph and not the human, I mean there is a lot to production in the photos, even I can see that the photograph are commanding them to pose in an artificial way, more than portraits they seem caricatures. So different in your photos where the homeless are posing but naturally and for own will to look better, and with dignity, in the photos, not to add an unnecessary drama.
    Sorry for sound a bit tough but in the school the most of my classmates and friends, although not homeless, came from very poor families, I don’t think they would be see the Mr. Lee’s portraits with sympathy.

  7. I don’t think any of the drug users on the street just “brought it all on themselves” — I doubt any of the one day decided they were going to become drug addicts and end up destitute on the street. Your comment shows a profound lack of understanding of the illness of drug addiction.

    • By using drugs, even for the very 1st time, you are bringing it on yourself. if you go down that road that you know is not the right one, and you make that choice to do so, then yes, you bring it on yourself. You can only become addicted to drugs by starting to use them, which is a choice one makes for themselves and by doing so, taking risks that come along with it.

      • I am sorry but that is a very one sided perspective, there are various reasons why people start using drugs but one of the most important ones are underlying psychiatric issues so drugs are either a prolonged suicide or used as a misplaced way of self-medicating and finding a way out of psychiatric issues, in any case, that group of people (and it’s a big percentage of serious drug users) did not ” bringing it on themselves” but it is a consequence of their psychiatric problems and lack of understanding and support from their environment. In this context your comment lacks empathy and is quite insensitive.

        • As you could have guessed, I was referring to those (and I have met quite a few in my time) who CHOSE to use drugs for recreational in “Oh, I think I will try that Cocaine..or Heroin..or Crack”. In fact, my best friend in High School was not mentally ill. When we graduated he got into Cocaine..I stayed away. He then went to Heroin. I stayed away..He then went to Crack and that is when I was no longer his friend when he came to my house with three thugs at 1am trying to rob me at gunpoint. My once best friend. I talked my way out of that by being calm and collected. After that he became homeless and died at a VERY young age many years ago. There are MANY drug users just like him, in fact, I have seen many who decided to take that path and they knew the path they were taking. I have no empathy for those who choose that. I was not talking about mentally ill becoming drug addicts because if you are mentally ill, then you are doing it for different reasons.

          • Sad story about your friend and your lack of empathy. Mostly you sound like a nice guy, but empathy is not a selective feeling. You either have it or not.

            Do you have any idea why he did that to himself? Difficult at home, the need to make an impression on others due to insecurity or perhaps something happened that went unnoticed by others? No need to answere – just ask yourself the questions. My cousin got into drugs because of pressure from “friends” while those that should have been his friends were bullying him. At young age you don’t really always know your best and you are lucky if you are a careful person…

          • No offense, but you really have no clue. I am one of the most empathic people i know, and those who know me say the same. But for those, like I said, who choose the hard road of hard drugs for the fun of it (and there are MANY who do) then I feel no empathy for them because they did not have to take that road. I didn’t, when I had many opportunities and offers to do so. I had peer pressure. I had it shoved in my face – all of it. I said No thanks, and I became highly respected for doing so. Peer pressure is also no excuse because at the end of the day that is exactly what it is meant to be, an excuse. We control our own life and destiny.

            If I did not have empathy I would not be out on the streets in the winter bringing blankets, food, clothing and money to those in need. I would not give money to strangers or those in need, I would no help the many that I do on an almost daily basis.

            But you do not know me besides what you see here. I will always stand my ground though on those who deliberately choose hard drugs as we all know the consequences. Again, I am not referring to the mentally ill (though most mentally ill do not use heroin and crack) but those who just choose to take that path for no good reason other than to get their kicks.

          • May I use that quote? “I’m one of the most empathic people I know”

            Same goes for me. I’m also the nicest person I know. LoL!

  8. I am moved with mixed feelings. I feel so sad for these poor people and I am shocked this is a reality in a civilized country. My anger goes to the people who support wars all over the world to protect ideals and interests or earn so much money in one year normal people can’t spend in their whole life. I leave it there if it’s appropriate to ‘buy canvas or download’ or ‘taken with Leica and Summicron’. I wish such a project helps to realize some things from those who know value of life the most. Sorry for beeing a bit accusing since I don’t know all the stories behind it, but it’s just a shame whatever reason.

  9. Wow I don’t know what I’m impressed with, the photos or how well your site is built with HTML5. Both are great!

  10. Steve, you have a big heart. Same as Lee Jeffries and many more. It is a real inspiration & thanks for sharing. Sometimes, it is really good seeing our photography can take on further than just families, kids, friends, beautiful scenery, modelling & odd happening on street, but to show respect & beauty and a voice for the under-priveleged.

  11. Lee – AMAZING photos. These are some of the MOST powerful images recorded to any medium.

  12. Lee’s pictures are absolutely amazing!
    But hey Steve, so were yours. Your pictures of the homeless were the reason I stumbled over your website, and stayed a loyal reader since.
    But in all honesty, I miss that kind of work. It’s all about the newest and hottest gear, and that’s ok for me, but from time to time a bit more about “photography” would be very welcome.

    Bur please don’t get me wrong, I love your site !

  13. The photographs evoke the emotion of those taken by Avidon and deserve an exhibit at The Met! Well done.


  14. Just went through Lee’s gallery on 500px. Absolutely mesmerizing! One of favs over there has to be the young woman resting her head (chin) in her hands. Absolutely stunning work, Lee!

  15. Those photos are too artificial. Prefer yours.
    What lens you used to portray Rodney?

    (Forgive me my way of speaking English)

  16. Thanks for sharing Lee’s work, Steve. Such powerful images, especially the one of the man with the needle in his hand. I’ve always been interested in portraiture of the less fortunate but my shy disposition makes it difficult. This past summer, I actually took on my first street portraiture project as a way of breaking out of my shell, and it worked – out of 30 people I only got two negative responses. No matter who you’re photographing, I think the important point is to always strike up a conversation beforehand and establish a rapport with your subject.

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