In a pop-up studio in Hollywood, an award-winning portrait photographer turns his lens on Los Angeles’ homeless, who visit the area each night for a free meal.
Martin Schoeller’s new subjects are far from famous, unlike his previous muses—which include President Obama, Taylor Swift, and Jack Nicholson—but they each have stories to tell, and with his help, they’re getting the chance to share them.
“Homelessness is spreading right here in every community in the United States,” the former assistant to Annie Leibovitz told TakePart. “It is something we all can do something about.”
By sharing these close-ups on Instagram, Schoeller is giving the spotlight to those who otherwise find themselves nameless, faceless, and voiceless as a group.
“There is a tendency in modern society to pigeonhole and stereotype, and the worst stereotype in this culture is that homeless people are bums, criminals, and drug addicts,” Ted Landreth, executive director of the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition, an advocacy organization, told TakePart. “And here’s Martin disproving that.”
Schoeller is asking his Instagram followers to support Landreth, his wife, and their volunteers in helping to feed people living on the streets. The organization provides hot meals to nearly 150 homeless people every night in Hollywood.
“Whether it’s a few smiles, a few dollars, or dedicated volunteer work at a soup kitchen or a shelter, small gestures and large are required to change the framework of the conversation around this urgent subject,” Schoeller said.
More than 44,000 homeless people live in Los Angeles County, with more than half in the city center. Nearly a quarter of them sleep in makeshift shelters, tents, and vehicles on the street, according to a 2015 report published by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
Here are some of their stories, as told to Schoeller.