Art 4

“How do you want the world to see you?” was the simple – yet powerful – question that inspired an entire photo series focused on empowering homeless youth.

This extraordinary project was designed by Art Start: an organization that believes art can save lives. To prove it, they’re dedicated to working with over 600 at-risk young people, per year, on a consistent (and creative) basis.

To establish that homelessness does not define a person, Art Start gave their NYC-based community the opportunity to show the world who they truly are on the inside. They asked several homeless teens about their wildest dreams, giving them the chance to envision a life without obstacles. Afterward, they took these dreams and made them a visual reality by collaborating with various photographers and stylists.

What results is The Portrait Project: a collection of portraits that embody artistic positivity.

“Our greatest hope that the public takes from this exhibition is the authentic voices and representations of the youth in the images. This is their chance for people to know their essence and not just define them by their circumstances,” Art Start’s co-executive director, Johanna De Los Santos, told HelloGiggles. “We also hope the public can realize that homeless and otherwise marginalized New Yorkers are some of the strongest, smartest and most resilient people we know – not the other way around. Let’s choose to focus on the beauty and strength of people thriving and surviving through hard times; not pity or look down onto them. We hope this starts a new way of thinking about everyone in our community – that you can choose to see people for how they want to be seen if you arrest judgement and stigma and take interest into people’s stories, as told by them.”

“Miguel Solano” – photographed by David Johnson:

“Nadia” – photographed by Josh Dalsimer:

“Fleur” – photographed by Natalie Brasington:

Andy Laureano – photographed by Ken Pao:

“Glenn” – photographed by Alina Gozin’a:

“Fire” – photographed by Steve Giralt:

“Reine” – photographed by Natalie Brasington:

“Young Michael” – photographed by Tom McKenzie:

“Nicola” – photographed by Alina Gozin’a:

“Jacob” – photographed by David Johnson:

And there’s even more from this inspiring project. This video captures the process of this amazing undertaking, as well as the sources for all that inspiration.

(Photos courtesy of Art Start)