Photographer Horia Manolache is based in San Francisco, the city with the second highest homeless population in the United States. However, he believes that homeless communities are frequently misunderstood and unfairly stereotyped, so he’s started a project called The Prince and the Pauper to portray them in a new light. In a series of dual portraits, each homeless individual stands posed on the left in his or her normal attire; on the right, each one wears the recognizable outfit associated with the career of his or her dreams, gazing proudly forward as if towards a brighter future.
The images were shot in a studio that Manolache created in a hotel room, isolated against a black backdrop to create a film noir-inspired effect. This way, he hopes to emphasize their pure emotions and facial expressions, without the distraction of environmental surroundings. He also aims his lens from an unexpectedly close distance, conveying a poignant intimacy that incites silent dialogue between subject and viewer.
For the costumed shots, Manolache bought and rented the props and outfits through eBay and Amazon, and his wife lent a hand by providing hair and makeup. However, this isn’t only make-believe: he helped bring the models a true step closer to their ideal futures, too, by offering resources like food, money, and clothing, or even guiding people towards safe places to sleep. He explains, “I have been a photographer for a while and my big question was for many years how I can help somebody with a photograph…After a while I understood that photography, as writing, can change mentalities and can solve problems.”
Manolache has launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund the creation of a book of the photographs, which he hopes will further help to change the cultural conversation around homelessness. You can show your support for the initiative on Indiegogo.
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All images via Horia Manolache.