For the past 30 years working as a photo journalist, I've been to almost every district in Hong Kong. There I have seen the fickleness of human nature and the vicissitudes of life. Through my camera, I captured the celebration of the Return of Hong Kong to China, Former USA President Bill Clinton, the late princess Diana and etc. However, after I completed the feature report on the homeless people in Hong Kong, I gained a deeper understanding of life, of society, and of a pressman's social responsibilities. In 1999, SoCO first invited me to join their project to take pictures of the homeless in Hong Kong. That was the start of the following 20 years of photography. Together with SoCO social workers, I went to every street where the homeless appeared, visited and got to know about 300 homeless friends at countless nights. One time at midnight, I saw about 100 homeless sleeping outside Tsim Sha Tsui Cultural Centre. I visited a group of naked homeless in the summer heat, and another bunch cowering in the chilling winter wind. Who would have known there can be so many homeless people living in extreme poverty in one of the world's richest cities? Through a series of photo exhibitions and photograph collections, I hope to raise public awareness of these homeless people. I once handed in a photo collection of the homeless to Mr Tsang Yam-Kuen (former chief executive of HKSAR Government). He turned a few pages and asked me, "Do we have so many homeless people in Hong Kong?" His reaction showed how these disadvantaged people are ignored. Every homeless individual has his story, a story of struggle, of sorrow and of life's surprises. I hope in the near future, their situation can be improved or even better, totally changed.
Despite coming from an IT background with an occupation in the industry, I started to touch on issues of poverty and the disadvantaged from the time I became an amateur street photographer. I also became a volunteer of Taiwan Homeless Association and got involved in assisting the homeless. Meanwhile, I hope I could, as an observer, project the view of some dusky corners in the city for the era.
Getting in touch with the homeless these years, I realized that my photos are no longer reflecting my curiosity on them, but more about their daily life. I have pondered on such a change in my attitude and I figured out that I am treating them like friends now. Ever since I got to know more about their experiences in life and their attitude towards life, my thoughts are becoming more and more empathetical.
I have always hoped that my photos can reflect and document the world in different ways and that the photos are influential like a form of life itself. When the society are drawn to the photos, I hope that it can help the homeless.
YANG Yun sheng
I have been a social worker handling cases of the homeless in Taipei since 1997, helping them with their life and providing them with resources such as social protection and career support. I genuinely admire their wisdom under discriminations and hardships. Therefore, apart from the job routine to visit them, I will try to follow their footsteps to understand their unique form of living and survival in Taipei, a city which has high cost of living and high commodity price.
Simply by taking random photos, I tried to record matters in their daily life such as the way they live and the way they utilize resources in hand. They live simply. They live uneasily. They prop themselves up every day in their own way.
A retrospect to my experiences interacting with the homeless, the greatest insight is that they are not far away from us, we are no different from them. They are just like us, utilizing the 24 hours every day to make a living.