I was invited to go along to the Big Issue offices in Birmingham today to help out in their ‘enrichment’ week, talk to some of the vendors about photography and help launch a photo competition. I decided that travelling by train would be the best idea so I set off at 8.30 this morning and made my way to the City centre.
I had put together a slide show of some of my own images to show to the vendors to help me explain the basics of composition, rule of thirds etc etc and was expecting a small number who had expressed an interest to be there. These kind of things don’t normally go to plan so I wasn’t particularly surprised when none of them turned up. So, we set out onto the streets of Birmingham to go and meet some of the vendors and explain what was going on, arm them with a disposable camera and try to build up some enthusiasm in them to go out and take some photographs.
Having worked with newspaper sellers for a long time in my previous job, I was aware of the kind of characters that this kind of job generally attracts so I was looking forward to having a chat and photographing some of them. The diversity of people was quite amazing, French, Canadian, Romanian and British were all represented and all selling the Big Issue on the streets on designated selling pitches. When you get chatting to these people they all seem quite willing to share their stories too, many were or had been users of heroin, some were on methadone programmes, some were alcoholic, some had been in and out of jail all of their lives, some had only recently arrived in the UK and others were simply working to earn some money. All extremely friendly people, despite what difficulties they have had or are having in their lives.
They earn 80p for each issue they sell and seem to rely on regulars and ‘drops’ where people simply give them money, but having an ID badge and being issued with a jacket identifying them as official Big Issue vendors really gives them some identity on the street. The workers at the Big Issue aside from the day to day ‘office’ duties also seem to take on an ‘outreach’ role, talking to people on the streets, helping them out, to the point of supplying sunscreen today as it was sweltering, and trying to help them get some stability to their lives.
From what I have seen it’s a really supportive organisation and it was a real pleasure and experience to talk to some of their vendors. Hopefully they will get out with their cameras and take some interesting photographs, there could be some very interesting results!
I managed to capture this whilst we were walking about. I didn’t realise it at the time but the two people on the right hand side of the photo really provide a great contrast to the main subject. Bit of a lucky shot.