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Rosie Holtom’s Portrait Series that Humanizes the Homeless

By Hanssie on December 12th 2013

At first glance it seems like a typical black and white headshot. A regular guy or gal, smiling and posing for a studio portrait. You’d never guess that the person in each of the photos is homeless.

And that is exactly how photographer, Rosie Holtom wanted it to be. She wanted to challenge the preconceived notions we have when we think of a “homeless person.” After volunteering at Shelter from the Storm, for the last 4 years, Rosie felt inspired to begin this project. She felt like there was a “disconnect” tainted by the stereotypes of homeless people. Often thought of as crazy or drug addicts or even lazy or dangerous, Rosie set out to humanize the interesting people she had met at the London shelter.

Rosie invited 13 people into a studio and had them dress and pose “how they wanted to be seen.” She discussed the project with with the guests at the shelter beforehand and wanted a collaborative effort. She did not want the subjects to feel like she was exploiting them or their plight.



These people are on the up now that they’re at the shelter and so I wanted them to be viewed in a positive light. They’re not defined by the fact that they’re homeless, I think we all know what someone sleeping rough looks like, I feel like positive imagery is more powerful amidst the misery photography we get bombarded with. I think people are desensitized to that sort of imagery now.







Reminiscent of the time lapse video of the homeless vet who got a makeover, stories like these challenge our preconceived notions about people living in shelters or are down on their luck and have no place to call home.

Images Courtesy of: Rosie Holtom are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

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  3. Annie

    I commend you for your efforts. I think this project is socially meaningful in changing how people perceive homeless people. (I lived in San Francisco for many years and am well-aware that most of the homeless people, at least the ones I’ve seen/met, got in their situation bec they were down on their luck — like having an injury that made it hard to keep a job!) I love how sensitive Hanssie was to her subjects by including them in the concept development. Great job.

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    • Hanssie

      Thanks for the kind words, but I can only take credit for writing the article. Rosie Holtom is the London based photographer who did this project and I love it!

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