Lee Jeffries : The soul of Homeless in pictures (Interview)
LEE JEFFRIES : https://www.facebook.com/LeeJeffriesphotographer
PHOTOS OF THE EXHIBITION AT THE GALERIE MATHGOTH
Can you introduce you?
LEE JEFFRIES : Sure. 43 years old. Born in Manchester and a little known fact is that I’m actually an identicle twin!
How did you get to the photography ?
LEE JEFFRIES : I was relatively ‘late » to the artistic world. The first time I ever picked a camera up was 6 years ago at age 37. There was never any inclination up to that point to pursue anything remotely artistic. Then, 6 years ago, I met somebody and that changed everything. My senses were awakened in the most wonderful and surprising ways. I began to instinctively notice attributes of a person that ordinary life seems to dull down. The way they smell for example, the depth of their gaze and in her case…..spirituality. All of this made a huge impact on how I viewed life and other people in general and ignited something inside me that even now, I find difficult to explain. Picking up the camera was therefore very much a consequence of that experience. The story of me in London photographing a young homeless girl simply would not have happened without it.
That experience also led to my own loneliness. That is a state of being that has remained with me ever since. Going out on the street to meet people experiencing the same emotion has been strangely therapeutic.
What is the biggest difficulty to photograph people very close we don’t know?
LEE JEFFRIES : I think the common mistake for the « would be » photographer is to go out on the street with the intention of taking pictures. In my experience that is always secondary. I go out there to meet people. I’m driven by making a connection and breaking down barriers between « us » and « them ». Its self fulfilling as I have already mentioned. It’s not until those barriers are broken that as a photographer you would ever photograph anything truly emotional and real. A photograph has to start with emotion.
How does people react when you request to take a picture of them ?
LEE JEFFRIES : The point is I simply don’t request it. Of course they see me with a camera but long before I ever take it out to shoot an image, I’ve already developed a relationship. This is one of the reasons why i’m very much a « project based » photographer. I have to physically go somewhere else other than my locality. It’s too easy for me at home to try to short cut developing those relationships and let the deisre for an image take over. I find when I’m away, in Miami for example, I can totally immerse myself into the community. I become part of it for the time I’m there. You can only shoot images from the inside out, not the outside in.
How are their feeling when they see their face on the photo ?
LEE JEFFRIES : A whole range of reactions to be honest but not any different to the way you or I would react to photographs of ourselves. Some are more vane than others as we all are.
Do you search anything particular when you take a photo of these people ?
LEE JEFFRIES : Of course. Emotion. I’m constantly walking the streets looking directly into the eyes of stangers to find it. As I’ve said, I have a 6th sense for loneliness. It is very powerful and persuasive the moment I notice it and I truly absorb everything the person offers when they exhibit it. I look for emotion in all its forms.
What is your favorite photo ?
LEE JEFFRIES : I would say this one :
Have you got the same feeling within all the country you photographed?
LEE JEFFRIES : I don’t photograph circumstance or demographics. I always try to portray human emotion. The act of being human is the same in LA as it is in Miami, Rome, Paris of the world over.
How did you experience your exhibition at the mathgoth gallery?
LEE JEFFRIES : The exhibition at Mathgoth Gallery is truly beautiful. It represents my first real Gallery exhibition, although my images have been shown in a public museum in Rome for three months and of course a selection of the photographs have been available at the YellowKorner Galleries around the world for a while now.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mathilde and Gautier, the owners of the Gallery Mathgoth, for everything they have done to make this happen. The way the show has been presented has been in unison with the essence and spirituality of the images themselves.
What do you think of your collaboration whith JEF AEROSOL ?
LEE JEFFRIES : The thing I like about the collaboration with Jef is the fact that the « Synergy » is poetic. My images start out on the street. Through Jef’s stencil work he takes those very same images back to the street where they live on walls in Paris and Rome….places where many of them where shot.
Jef’s work is amazing. He is truly a superstar in the artistic world. He is a gentleman too. I think an artist can get to a stage where he doesnt need a collaboration. His work is stand out in its own right. What Jef did by taking this on, was not only produce some truly stunning art work, but he also demonstrated his « humanity ». He’s done it time and time again. He offers a hand up to upcoming artists and invites them to stand side by side with him. That says a whole lot about Jef Aerosol as a person.
Have you another topic that you want to develop?
LEE JEFFRIES : I’m currently working on a documentary video piece on the same theme. Watch this space.
Crédits photos : LEE JEFFRIES & ANTOINE QUAGLIA