COLUMBIA, S.C. — A South Carolina organization is using photography to help the homeless. The Through Our Eyes Project raises awareness and money for people experiencing homelessness by handing them the camera.
For the first time, the project is here in Columbia.
Many people that are homeless or living on the streets, often feel invisible. “Many of them have never had a voice to talk about the things that they're going through before,” said the creator of the project, Jason Williamson.
That’s why he created the Through Our Eyes Project in 2016.
“We want to put disposable cameras in the hands of people who are struggling with homelessness, or maybe vulnerable in some other situations, and give them a voice,” Williamson explained.
They first started in the Upstate and are now in the Midlands after partnering with the Shandon Baptist Church this year.
Volunteers recently walked around Columbia and went to shelters like Oliver Gospel to hand out cameras.
“They handed out around 50 cameras, and we got back about 60%, which is some of the highest return rate that we've ever had,” Williamson said.
In the past, Williamson said they’ve seen some heartbreaking photos, but this project has taught him an unexpected lesson:
“The things that are always surprising is the amount of joy that a lot of people have, whether it's a pet that they've adopted, it's a child, it's a friend. There's a lot of joy, and that's the part of the project that really caught me off guard."
The photos that were taken in Columbia are now being developed and a team of local partners will be picking the top 20 submissions on October 13th.
“We're going to highlight the 20 that we think give a really great overview of what homelessness looks like in Columbia, and people are going to be able to come and vote on their favorite images with their phones by donating money to a specific image,” explained Williamson.
Through Our Eyes will have an exhibit of all the photos at the Koger Center from November 3rd to December 15th. The opening night will be a ticketed event, but the remainder of the exhibit is free.
Donations raised will go to Columbia homeless shelters and the photographers that are showcased. The top three photographers that receive the most votes will win gifts with the money raised.