» Accountant by day, Lee Jeffries roams the streets to photograph faces that are a glimpse into a lifetime. We asked him a few questions, and you can follow his work on flickr.
In what kinds of situations were most of these photographs taken?
My involvement with the homeless started after an encounter with a young girl in London. She was huddled under a sleeping bag in a doorway in Leicester Square and took offense as I stole a photo from a distance. I was tempted to turn around and leave but something prompted me to go talk to her instead. Her story broke my heart, and changed the way I perceived the homeless. Most of my images are of people I have met on the street, whether in the UK, Europe or the US. The situations presented themselves, and I've made an effort to get to know each of the subjects before asking their permission to take their portrait.
What else do you do besides photography?
I'm an accountant by profession. Photography is my means of expression. It embodies my beliefs and my compassion. I consider myself lucky at not having to earn a living from it as it allows me free reign to try and help others, and not the selfish needs of a client. I also have a passion for sports — a knee injury put an end to a potential career in football, but not to the love of what sport continues to represent to me, both physically and spiritually.
What does beauty mean to you?
Beauty by definition is made up of the qualities that give pleasure to the senses. It's not just a visual quality necessarily, not just about the aesthetic. It encompasses sound, taste, smell and touch in any combination. It's an essence, or a combination of elements, that elicits an emotion and moves me.
What movies and books come closest to representing your point of view?
I don't know if any book or movie represents my point of view but I'm certainly influenced by them. Being self-taught, my instruction in photography comes from paintings, watching movies and documentaries depicting the world around me, in particular the human condition, seeing what other people have done, opening my eyes; If one person looks at any of my images and feels compassion, enough to maybe offer a helping hand the next time the opportunity presents itself, then the image counts.
What music are you listening to these days?
All sorts of genres, but I listen to a lot of classical music — Arvo Part, Chopin, Morricone, pieces that allow me to free my mind up at the end of the workday. The music I listen to while editing images often guides and enhances the emotional process.
Where do you live and how does it affect your work?
I live in Manchester, UK. As much as I love to travel, it has always been my home. In the few years I've been doing photography, it has taught me to really 'see' people in their everyday environment and to not take the familiar for granted. You have to be aware of what's going on around you in order to be ready for those decisive moments, to pick up on the subtle and not just the obvious.
What does realism mean to you as a photographer?
To me, photography is realism. It is to do with what is, and not what I can conjure up. I take photos of everyday people in situations that move me.
How often do you photography?
If I have the opportunity, every day.
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