Derek Slevin calls his years-long photographic project “Faces of the Forgotten.” Starting in 2012, the project has taken him to skid rows and homeless encampments in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, sometimes for days at a time. “I’ve met thousands of homeless people, shot 300 to 400 portraits,” he says.
Slevin picks a location — there are,unfortunately, dozens of possibilities in California’s cities — and starts walking, carrying a camera and a tripod, looking to make a connection with just one person who is willing to sit for a portrait.
“I introduce myself. I ask their names and let them know what I’m doing. They have to be coherent; they have to sign releases. Sometimes they say yeah, sometimes they say no.”
What happens once Slevin frames the shot is entirely up to the subject. He carries no props, offers no stage direction, does no Photoshopping.
“The images are what they are,” he says. “Someone’s mom, or brother, or son. A story that needs to be told.”