Professional photographer Lee, who became homeless during the pandemic, has captured a striking image of the Emmaus Preston, which has gone on show in a city centre exhibition.

The work of art encapsulates the community’s character and has been handpicked to go on display outside the former BHS building on Fishergate in Preston alongside 14 other artists until the end of May, close to an area populated by rough sleepers.

The portrait shows Rock surrounded by unique and one-off artefacts from the donated and new items that Emmaus Preston’s charity shops sell to fund support for its community of people building back from homelessness.

The composition was put together by Lee, who first received support from Emmaus when he became homeless, through a combination of work drying up as an event photographer during the pandemic, ill health and the end of a relationship.

Creating the composition

Lee said: “It is important to remember that being homeless is often a very small part of someone’s overall life experience and achievements, and although we all make judgements on first impressions, these judgements should be tempered by engagement and empathy.

“I decided to submit this photo because I believe it has captured the persona that the subject Rock shows to the world; his individual style, a sense of the vintage with a splash of the original bling.

“It was a set piece studio shot, which involved sourcing all props and painting the backdrop, which took around five hours. As Rock was such a good subject the shoot itself only took five minutes.”

Rebuilding skills in photography

Lee’s photography has previously won acclaim under the name of his former business, Photo Horizon, awarded by the platform Viewbug where he shares his work. Lee’s picture of a shell entitled ‘Mermaids’ won the Women’s International section.

Through work-based opportunities involving the preparation of new and second-hand donations ready to go on sale with Emmaus, Lee has been able to build on his photography skills with the view of restarting his business in the future.

Commenting on Lee’s work, Art on the Street exhibition organiser Garry Cook of Enjoy The Show said: “As work was voted for by group of independent artists called the Brewtime Collective there was no one reason why Lee’s work was chosen, other than people liked it.

“I have a background in photography and when I personally put this on the wall, I saw people stopping, looking and pointing out Lee’s work as their favourite, which included a couple of photographers.

More to homelessness than first meets the eye

“Homelessness is a problem in Preston. People have been camping under this image. Only last weekend there was a tent. Like Lee’s image, there is more to becoming homeless than first meets the eye. It’s a more complex problem than face value.

“The photo of Rock is really engaging and if people like the image and want to find out more about the charity that has been helping, then that’s the good to come out of this.

“These kinds of images change people’s perspectives of homelessness. All the best art has meaning behind it and reasons for it. That’s when art has its biggest impact, when it has this kind of depth.”

“I think it’s the tones and the colours matching, which I have since learned from Lee was quite deliberate. The picture just really grabs you, such as Rock’s eye contact from looking at the camera. Choosing the size of the particular items in the image and thinking about what they might mean, gives the picture depth. Ultimately, it’s a pleasing image that people might just look at and take in, perhaps not even realising why they like it at first.

Charity shops are a great place to go for props

“As for the content, charity shops are a great place to go for photographers to find props because here they can get old items for studio portraits, and this is exactly what Lee has done. It’s really good to see this sort of work being photographed in Preston.

Art on the Streets is a crowdfunded exhibition of local work, part funded by Lancashire County Council and part funded by residents, including a large proportion from independent collection of artists, the Brewtime Collective.

The portrait of Rock is part of a much larger project for Lee. He plans to capture a series of photographs based around the characters involved in charity shop work.


To find out more homelessness charity Emmaus Preston and to get help, visit Get Support on our website.