WARSAW — A disposable camera gave Mr Daniel Skupio a voice as he kept his mind off drugs and alcohol and built a new life.
Pouring over a table covered with analog photos, the 27-year-old picked a highlight from the project that captured Central Europe through homeless eyes.
The picture showed his cousin with arms outstretched, smiling into the sun.
“She was standing on a pile of sand and I asked her to pose for a picture against the sky,” Mr Skupio, speaking through the chipped teeth that epitomise his years of hard living, told AFP.
“It’s black and white but still shows a moment of joy, freedom.”
Mr Skupio participated in “Picture it!”, a Central European initiative that handed out one-use cameras to dozens of homeless in Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.
They captured everything from shared meals and playful pets to puddle reflections.
Mr Skupio’s picture is part of an exhibition in Budapest until Nov 27, aiming to change perceptions of homelessness.
Each person was given one or two disposable cameras and about three weeks to take pictures.
When the organisers first distributed the cameras, some of the participants were ready for the challenge. Others felt they had nothing to offer.
“They were like, ‘Me, photos? Why? What am I supposed to show?’ Again, it was that lack of confidence,” said Ms Izabela Kruzynska, the local coordinator in Poland.
“We had to lift the burden off their shoulders, tell them that whatever’s around you and catches your eye is fine… This is about your perspective.”
Mr Skupio and Mr Slawomir Plichta knew each other from a now defunct theatre troupe for the homeless that — like the photo project — gave them respite from their problems.
A black and white photo by Mr Plichta shows a ground view of a bike rack, the metal arches forming a tunnel with a tiny person at the end.
“I practically didn’t part with the camera the whole time… Just rode around looking for interesting things to photograph,” the 54-year-old recovering alcoholic told AFP.
That would not have been the case had he still been finishing bottles and sleeping rough.
“I’ll be honest: I’m not sure the camera would’ve made it back. I would’ve either sold it or just left it somewhere,” he said.
Now one year sober and recently back in his own apartment, Mr Plichta is careful not to take his abstinence for granted — “never say never” — though he calls himself “a new person, open to people, smiling”.
“Things are 150,000 times better now. I prefer this world. Not that one. I’ve left that one behind.” AFP