New exhibition challenges public's perceptions of youth homelessness

British fashion photographer Perou, famed for working with iconic figures from the worlds of fashion, film, sport and music, today launched an online photography exhibition which showcases a series of powerful images portraying the realities of youth homelessness in the UK.

The exhibition is part of Homeless & The Arts, a unique campaign which is backed and funded by O2’s Think Big youth programme. The campaign was created by 20 year old homeless activist James McNaughton who, having experienced homelessness firsthand, is committed to using the power of art to engage society with the issue of youth homelessness.

Having successfully exhibited artwork created by homeless youngsters in his hometown of Newcastle, James has partnered with leading British photographer Perou to create an exhibition which will run online at O2thinkbig.co.uk from November 15th.

The exhibition, which includes a range of photographs shot by Perou, is designed to raise awareness of the issue of homelessness and challenge society’s perceptions of the 80,000* young people who experience homelessness every year in the UK.

O2 Think Big ambassador and photographer Perou, said:
‘The vast majority of people are fortunate enough never to have experienced homelessness, but ignorance shouldn’t be an excuse. Every day, homeless young people are forced to confront society’s prejudice and what people fail to realise is the huge impact this has on vulnerable young people as they try rebuild their lives.

‘Through the exhibition James and I have put together, we want people to stop ignoring the issue and see the stark reality of youth homelessness in the UK. It’s about creating an impact and provoking a reaction. If the exhibition can get people to think differently about youth homelessness, it means it’s got a chance of getting people to act differently. That might mean we encourage more people to volunteer to support homeless charities, or it might be as simple as people taking time to talk to homeless young people on the street.’

James McNaughton, the young campaigner backed by O2 Think Big, said:
‘Having been homeless I know from personal experience just how difficult it is to turn your life around. One of the biggest barriers preventing young people making that transition is a lack of confidence and sense of self worth. That’s why it’s so important that, as a society, we don’t succumb to convenient stereotypes, but instead treat young homeless people with respect and dignity.’

‘Working with Perou I wanted to use the power of art to dispel some of the negative perceptions of youth homelessness. The exhibition, hopefully, does just that, it gives a voice to the homeless young people behind the images and hopefully it will make people stop and think.’

James and Perou spent several days working closely with homeless organisations in Liverpool and Manchester to shoot the photographs which headline the exhibition. James and Perou spent time visiting each city and talked at length with the young people who volunteered their stories to be part of the exhibition.

The exhibition also features a range of photography shot by young people from London, Newcastle and the East Midlands who have experienced homelessness. These images offer a unique glimpse into their personal stories and bring to life the journey from homelessness to independent living.

James is one of four inspirational young people passionate about tackling important issues in our society who are being backed by O2 with a £1.25million pound media budget to make their voice heard on a national level. Through Think Big, O2 is committed to investing in young people to help them take positive action in their communities. To date, O2 has backed over 1,000 youth led projects.

O2 is backing James’ campaign with a short film that will be shown in cinemas across the UK documenting his story. To find out more about James’ campaign, check out his powerful documentary film, and view the online exhibitions go to O2thinkbig.co.uk