When photographer Anthony Dawton realised how dramatically homelessness had increased in London, he took to the streets with his camera. For years he had taken photographs in areas of need worldwide, but after spending some time in his home city, he noticed how many people were living on its streets. He embarked on a new project to raise awareness for a city he no longer recognised: NOTLondon.

Anthony Dawton photographs his subjects with a beauty and dignity that many of them are often denied. His portraits capture the strength and power of humanity as well as its vulnerability. By accompanying the image with the person’s name and their story, Anthony gives voice to the voiceless and attempts to offer the homeless a place, a home on the page. Governmental institutions turn a blind eye to the homeless, leaving the work up to charities. Homeless shelters are rife with substance abuse, making them a dangerous place for those trying to overcome addiction. Homelessness becomes a vicious cycle and many find it difficult to break free. Since the start of the pandemic, over 70,000 households in the UK have been made homeless. Dawton’s photographs are mesmerising, and as we stare into the eyes of their subjects, we’re faced with reality: this is a problem that’s getting worse and needs urgent attention.

NOTLondon is a provoking campaign to help the city’s most vulnerable and to address the fact that, despite its wealth, the city is not providing for those most in need. NOTLondon includes an introduction by Leilani Fahra, former UN special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing and the Global Director of The Shift. Having dedicated her life’s work to changing attitudes to homelessness and attacking the governmental systems and structures which perpetrate homelessness, she shares her thoughts in NOTLondon, highlighting the importance of Dawton’s project.

My thoughts

ALL HUMAN BEINGS ARE BORN FREE AND EQUAL IN DIGNITY AND RIGHTS. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 1, 1948)

In her introduction to the book Leilani Farga, Global Director, The Shift and former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing (2014 – 2020) tells us that the homeless: “…are not victims. They are human rights defenders. Every tent erected, sleeping bag rolled out, toilet constructed is a claim: a distilled, human rights claim for survival and dignity. Cognizant that their living conditions are not acceptable, understanding they are part of a global trend, wanting their governments held accountable.”

NOTLondon is a moving portrayal of homelessness on the streets of London in photographs by Anthony Dawton.

I live in Cheltenham, in the Cotswolds. where we have a population of around 116,000. In spite of being a small town and Cheltenham having a reputation for being rather ‘posh’ and affluent with its racing, music and literature festivals, you will still see homeless people on the streets – in doorways, in parks, sleeping on benches or under cardboard boxes. It’s heartbreaking. It’s 2021 – how is this still happening? I know people who think it’s OK because they are ‘all drug addicts’ (their words, not mine), but it’s not. These are people like you or me, and as they say, there but for the grace of God….

This ordinary-looking woman below with her dog could be me…or you.

Antony Dawton’s photographs are stunning. What really struck me are the ones where other people are passing in front of them, walking quickly and taking no notice.

“If you don’t look at them, they don’t exist.”
“Just walk on.”
“Don’t give them money, they’ll spend it on drugs.”
“It’s not my problem.”
“I’m too busy. I have my own issues.”
“I can’t help.”

But homelessness is a problem that is not going away. In fact it’s getting worse. The pictures above are just a few of my favourites from this powerful collection.

Many thanks to Grace Pilkington Publicity @GracePublicity for inviting me to give an unbiased review of NOTLondon.

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