Homeless photographers capture a side of Milan that's rarely seen
What does it mean to see a city through the eyes of its unseen?
That is one of the questions animating a groundbreaking photography project that put cameras in the hands of Milan’s homeless population and asked them to document the Italian city from their own, unique perspective.
“The project started one year ago thanks to an idea of a friend of mine, a journalist who is very active in Milan and cares a lot about the homeless,” says Gianmarco Maraviglia, the founder of Echo, a photo agency in Milan. “So we selected 15 homeless people, some of them from the train station, others selected by a municipal office that takes care of the homeless, and we started this photojournalism course. It’s a 3-month workshop, and I taught them photojournalism and gave them cameras so they could shoot around Milan.”
The project eventually led to a exhibition in Milan and major media exposure across Italy, where Maraviglia and his students were lauded in television reports and news magazines. But Maraviglia wanted to do something more for the homeless photographers, some of whom showed promise with the medium.
“After the project was finished, I decided to do something more for them – not a social project, like this was – but some of them were really passionate about photography. So I tried to consider them as real photographers.”
Maraviglia brought four of his homeless students into Echo, his photo agency, as regular contributors working on a new project. With Milan set to host the upcoming 2015 World Expo – whose theme this year focuses on food security issues – he set them to capturing a side of the city that the world rarely sees.
“It’s not a negative view of the city, just different,” Maraviglia says. “They have access to different places that you wouldn’t normally see … I just want to say, ‘Milan is this, but it is also this.’”
“The main topic of Expo 2015 is “Feeding the Planet,” so all the countries in the world have pavilions here presenting new technology for food – but who can say something about food better than homeless people, who struggle every day to survive? The project was born.”
Maraviglia says that while he has high hopes for the photographers he has taken under his wing, he isn’t sure what will become of them. “Of course it’s not easy, but all I can do for them I will do it,” he says, noting his very personal relationship with the four. “You cannot imagine how important this is to them.”