Jan Hoek, Why do you say unethical?

Following a conversation with a friend over Facebook, this was my response.

I think the homeless thing is unethical anyway, looking for homeless people and saying come into my house so I can broadcast you on my site, what are his reasons. His stories are great, exciting and funny. But they are also very blunt and mimicking of individuals presented I think. I am a little concerned work like this is exhibited everywhere etc, as I wonder how much the people involved have any idea how they are being shown, or more importantly, how they are being talked about. Its like looking for the exotic on the streets, when these people need a pick me up, a helping hand, a meal, a night of warm, not come into my house and I’ll broadcast and cement your position so you can never escape it.

These people have to surely, want to get out of where they are, and work like this just cements their position as homeless people. Instead of the £5 he paid for a disposable camera and his time, give the £5 to the man; go with him to get something, a meal, a hat. Send to an organisation where they help people, instead of making a living from the misfortune of others.

This is not a speech for the homeless here, and we are all guilty of ignoring people whilst you have 50p in your pocket. It is the fact he’s gone out his way to find these people, but why and for what reason, its worrying, but the work is fantastic.

It holds all the mystery of these strange encounters, and as a photographer you can enjoy their qualities, you can enjoy the write ups around the pictures, the bluntness of it. But it is like he is recruiting a mini circus for people, he’s like the unforgiving Diane Arbus. Diane Arbus cared for her subjects, she invested in their stories, but this guy seems to be pointing at them with his exotic eye.

This was following a conversation with a friend over Facebook, provoking this response.

But, to end on a quote by subject of his pictures ‘And then you will tell everybody in Europe that we are monkeys’. This as a statement really got to why I feel such a away towards the work. The person in the pictures responding to a request to be angry, and to acknowledge the representation that might give when misinterpreted into a foreign country.

I have an issue with the exotic anyway and projects seeking the exotic are purely for self indulgent factors, end up being more useful for the photographers over the subjects depicted. But, then how do we photograph the exotic without such ambition?