Photographer’s remarkable ‘homeless’ portraits show real faces of men, women and children living on the streets

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It all began with a chance encounter with a young, homeless girl on the streets of London.

Amateur photographer Lee Jeffries snapped a picture of the teenage orphan with a long lens camera after spotting her huddled in a sleeping bag.

Picking him out of the crowd, the girl started shouting at him across the road – leaving him torn between leaving or going over to apologise to her.

In a move that would affect him deeply, he chose the latter, sitting down with the teenager and listening to her heartbreaking life story.

The encounter, the day before the 2008 London Marathon, dramatically altered Lee’s perception of the homeless – and his artistic approach.

An old woman with wrinkles under her eyes smiles as she is photographed by Lee Jeffries
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The accountant, from Manchester, started capturing incredible portraits of people living on the streets of Britain, as well as Europe and the US.

But instead of just stealing pictures of them – as many photographers have done – he decided to speak to his subjects about themselves and their lives.

Then, after getting to know them, he took their pictures.

The results are simply incredible – with Lee having captured intimate portraits of a range of men, women and even children across the world.

In one black-and-white picture, a homeless man in glasses can be seen frowning and clutching his face as he sits on a city’s streets.

A bearded man in a checked shirt poses with a cigarette in his mouth
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An older man with large glasses looks into the lens for his portrait
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Portraits of the Homeless
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In another, two young boys stare into the camera lens with wide eyes.

And in one, an old woman with wrinkles under her eyes smiles.

The remarkable portraits were sent to the Mirror Online by Lee, who regularly posts his work with the homeless on his Instagram page .

Speaking to in 2012, the amateur photographer said: “I need to see some kind of emotion in my subjects.

“I specifically look at people’s eyes – when I see it, I recognize it and feel it – and I repeat the process over and over again.”

He added that he rarely takes notes when speaking to his subjects in an attempt to keep the contact as informal as possible.

Lee rarely takes notes when speaking to his subjects
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The photographer tries to keep the contact as informal as possible
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Another bearded man who is living rough smiles as he poses for Lee
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Everyone else walks by like the homeless are invisible. I’m stepping through the fear, in the hope that people will realize these people are just like me and you,” he said.

Lee, who wants to raise awareness of homelessness, is self-funded and has used his holiday time to travel to major cities across the globe.

These include Las Vegas, New York and Paris.

In a recent interview, he said that it was not only his encounter with the girl in a sleeping bag that encouraged him to speak to and photograph homeless people.

He revealed someone else – who had a ‘particular compassion’ for ‘those with nothing’ – had inspired him to ‘go out and be with’ people living on the streets.

That person had ‘opened his eyes’, while the homeless teenager had prompted him to be more ‘intimate’ in his artistic approach, he said.

A man in a hood looks into the camera lens, wide-eyed, in his picture
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According to Crisis, 'all forms of homelessness' in England have recently risen
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According to Crisis, ‘all forms of homelessness’ in England have recently risen.

This is ‘due to the shortage of housing and ongoing effects of the economic recession combined with government policies – particularly reforms and cuts to housing benefit’.

Last year, the Government estimated around 3,569 people sleep rough on any one night across the country – a rise of 30 per cent on 2014.

However, Crisis warns the actual figure was likely ‘much higher’.

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