Photographing the souls of homelessness
Author: Cliff Collins
Posted: May 27, 2018

Pedro Oliveira, a communication and advertising major, graduates this spring, but he already is making his living as a commercial photographer. It all started with “Careful: Soul Inside,” a two-year photographic project profiling homeless individuals in Portland and several other cities.

The work, which starkly portrays folks living on the margins of society, has garnered awards, media exposure and two museum displays. Its reach inspired him to pursue his chosen career, says Oliveira, a native of Brazil.

His project’s theme resonated with his own background, making it easier for him to relate to people he met who were living on the street. “I was always an outsider—grew up in a Third World country, single mother, in a small town. I saw the other side of the camera.”

Raising more awareness of the problem of homelessness was what drove him. He hoped to surmount what he calls the barriers that society erects to isolate others. For most of his subjects he includes short narratives. A common theme he detected was that everybody has a dream, such as “being in a better job, or just having a better future.”

Homeless people “are very self-aware, something I never had anticipated,” says Oliveira. Some, such as a young woman addicted to heroin from her early teens, told him they blame their predicament on themselves. Most subjects don’t have the opportunity to see the photos he takes of them, but this woman did: When he texted her the picture, she told him she cried, seeing herself that way.

–written by Cliff Collins, a Portland freelance writer.

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