On The Street

City Living

In a fire exit, of a company charged with helping the unemployed find work, a rough sleeper has abandoned their bed. The door opens onto Paradise Street.

I was out making images for my Noctilucence project a few years ago. In 2011, in Sheffield, a comfortable relatively prosperous city. The first image offered itself up on the ironically named Paradise Street. It’s just a linking road really, down between anodyne office blocks in the midst of the legal district. So I braced my back against a sub-station gate, got my breathing pattern right, squeezed the shutter release and made the image.

My notebook entry reads:

“The sad remnants of someone’s life. Fire exit of New Bank House, Paradise Street”

The last image of the night presented itself as I was hurrying for the last train home. In the city centre, in Barker’s Pool, in John Lewis’ window. A horribly fake, utterly kitsch, display selling ‘Retro Reborn’ tat as yet another home must have.

In a slightly up market department store, a selection of retro chic furnishings. Around the corner, the homeless take shelter.

I’ve presented the images here, together, the way they juxtaposed in my mind at the time. Walking between them through Sheffield they’re physically seperated by about 500m. For me, emotionally, they’re a world apart. Before anyone asks, if the sleeper had been there I don’t know if I could or would have made an image. Or how.

I don’t know any answers. I’m not sure anyone else does either. Certainly not our current(2018) disgrace of a government. I do know however, but for fortunate chance, I would have been the human vanished from the cardboard and empty bottle rather than the man who shops in John Lewis.

An addendum, November 2022: things have gotten worse.