Photography project equips homeless with disposable cameras

This summer, the InFocus Social Project handed out 45 disposable cameras to people in Ottawa affected by homelessness. Now their photographs will be on display Sunday.

Photos will be on display Sunday at Studio Sixty Six

This is one of the photographs from the upcoming exhibition at Studio Sixty Six. (Supplied)

What happens when you hand out 45 disposable cameras to people living on Ottawa's streets and tell them to photograph whatever they want?

Liz Fitzpatrick and Nina Garacci believe an important bond with people who open your eyes to a new perspective of life in the capital.

The recent University of Ottawa graduates started the InFocus Social Project this summer after being inspired by similar initiatives to engage with people affected by homelessness in Vancouver and London. 

"By getting the community together and having those conversations with maybe a demographic that you normally wouldn't interact with, it really breaks down those social barriers that exist," said Garacci on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

Fitzpatrick said the people who were given cameras took photos of the world around them, their friends and "a lot of dogs".

"We didn't get any sort of selfies. Everything was really outwards, which is nice," said Fitzpatrick.

'We were super naive'

The two women loaded up backpacks with 45 disposable cameras at the start of the summer and hit the streets, looking for people to participate in the project. However, they only gave out seven cameras on their first day.

"We were super naive in thinking that we could get rid of them all at once," said Garacci. She and Fitzpatrick quickly learned they needed to spend time building relationships with people before getting them to commit to the project.

None of the photographers given the cameras took selfies, or at least a photo of their own face. (Supplied)

"They are a population that are exploited often and by creating this relationship they end up trusting you," she added.

About half of the cameras were returned. When they got the film developed, Fitzpatrick and Garacci said they couldn't wait to get home to look at them.

"We were really pleased with the outcome," said Fitzpatrick.

"Meeting these participants, we've actually developed quite a relationship with them and [we] realized that there is no us and them ... we're all just a part of the human race here," said Garacci.

The InFocus Social Project's photographs will be on display at Studio Sixty Six in the Glebe on Sunday beginning at 7 p.m.

Donations from the event and funds raised through the initiative will go to programs in Ottawa that help the homeless.