Every year Cafe Art, the charity behind the annual MyLondon calendar, gives out 100 single-use cameras to 100 people affected by homelessness and gives them seven days to take photos of the city where they live.
The striking result is a unique collection of photos capturing London’s diverse people and wildlife as well as the city’s architecture and landmarks.
The best shots are compiled into a calendar which, like The Big Issue, is sold around London with the vendor keeping 50 per cent of the sale price.
This year’s cover photo was taken by Shenan Chandler, who captured a group of people shielding from driving rain.
She said of the shot: “This is a picture that I took when we were walking along the banks of the Serpentine and it was a bit of an overcast day. But then the crowds really started to gather and darken in the sky. And then all of a sudden the heavens opened up and everyone ran for shelter.
“Yet I was intrigued by this group of people who seemed to huddle even closer and I thought: “Wow, what a moment. I must take this photo.”
The project is intended to let homeless photographers hone their photography skills and boost their self-esteem.
That has been the case for Wayne Chin, 45, who has been homeless in London for seven years and was helped into private accommodation during the pandemic.
Wayne told The Big Issue he got involved with MyLondon through his key worker two years ago and has since taken part in training sessions and walks around London to capture the capital through his camera lens.
“I would say that MyLondon and Cafe Art has saved me more than once,” he said. “It’s good for people who are into visual arts and don’t have an outlet. It facilitates those who are poor, who want to get into photography. For myself it’s helped me do other things other than use and brought me back into the environment of society if you will.”
While normally the project asks participants to take their snaps over seven days, this time they were tasked with uploading 10 photos that had been taken in the last 15 months since the first lockdown in March 2020.
While Wayne’s photos did not make the calendar this time around, he relished the chance to uncover the reality of lockdown London.
“Personally, I want to throw things in people’s faces with my photography because it feels that people are ignoring the people on the streets. I enjoy it and I think it’s productive – it’s letting people be aware of what’s going on.
“Photography gives me a sense of freedom, which I don’t get when doing literature or other arts stuff. It feels like music almost, like the last stand of freedom and self-expression. Because I’m dyspraxic and dyslexic, music and visual arts appealed to me more and I’m able to express myself within that.”
The unique project has paid out more than £180,000 to vendors since launching in 2013 and this year vendors will be selling the calendar at London railway stations and undergoing work experience at Transport for London and local homeless charities. Cafe Art hopes the skills picked up by selling the calendar will open up vendors to jobs, such as plugging the employment gap in hospitality, for example.
And now the charity has set sights on taking the idea to other countries around the globe. A fundraiser has been launched alongside the calendar to set up new global charity MyWorld.
But the idea has already caught on around the globe with projects in Budapest, New Orleans, Toronto as well as Sydney and newcomer Perth in Australia.
The 2022 MyLondon calendar is available to buy now from vendors across London or online here priced £10.99.
Buy a Big Issue Winter Support Kit for £34.99, you’ll receive four copies of the magazine and vendors could receive immediate tools for survival plus access to vital training and employment pathways to escape poverty for good.