Photographer Justin Bettman embarked on his ongoing series known as The Bagel Project in 2011 by approaching homeless people on the streets of Los Angeles with an offering of bagels for their time. The young photographer, whose intention with this work is to “give a voice to the voiceless,” would often start by purchasing a dozen or so bagels and roaming the streets for homeless people willing to participate in his personal project. To his surprise, Bettman found that the people he encountered were more interested in having company with whom they could hold a conversation than a bagel for sustenance.
Bettman’s series acknowledges the presence of each homeless individual as a person rather than treating them as a faceless staple of the city. Usually, these wandering souls go unnoticed. He says, “In major urban areas like LA, we tend to get used to the people who sit on the curbs, or push around broken shopping cars. The people that talk to themselves because no one else will listen. The homeless in our cities are often forgotten, as after a while they become a part of the city themselves; blending in like streetlights and bus stops, or any of the other things we walk by hundreds of times a day.”
As part of his mission from the beginning, Bettman shares images of the homeless people he photographs accompanied by a story they choose to share with him. A log of his intriguing encounters and their fascinating stories can all be read on the photographer’s blog. They are, at times, heartbreaking though there are many instances in which the photographer himself is surprised to discover their contentment with their lifestyle.