Posted by Ken Mullin on Aug 13, 2019
  
 
Eye Contact Photographic Exhibition
Changing Community Attitudes towards Homelessness
 
    
 
The fact is most people hurry past the homeless, casting their eyes away, or simply ignoring what is a familiar sight on our streets.  Sadly, they believe the problem is intractable.  This attitude stymies the necessary community support for addressing the problem and percolates through to State and Federal policy. 
In 2017, the Rotary Clubs of Heirisson and Perth formed a partnership with professional photographer Phil England to compile a set of portraits that would present homeless people in a sympathetic light.  The portraits would then be exhibited publicly as a means of changing public attitudes towards Homelessness.
 
Phil’s series comprises 20 larger than life portraits (1.8m x 1.3m) of homeless Western Australians, each locking viewers with an arresting gaze – hence ‘Eye Contact’.  Short written snapshots of their experiences accompany the powerful portraits, enabling confrontation of the issues they face in life on the street. There is a story behind every homeless person.  The purpose of the portraits is to help viewers recognise the humanity in homeless people along with a story of hope and salvation, pointing to the fact that with a concerted effort we can make a difference.
 
An exhibition of the portraits was first held in October 2017, and opened by our patron Dr Ken Michael AC, former governor of Western Australia.  Since then the exhibition has been shown in over 15 public locations around Perth and at 8 schools.  Each exhibition has had an “opening” with speakers including Homeless Agency CEOs and people with lived experience of homelessness, plus a Q&A session for the audience - sparking off new conversations about the issue.  Over 5,000 people have now seen the exhibition with excellent results, and in particular exhibitions in schools have had a very strong effect on students.  The culmination of the exhibition program was Homelessness Week 2019, where the portraits were exhibited in the WA Parliament House, with an opening attended by the politicians.