Editorial photography of homeless young woman sits on the ground with her backpack in a portrait box by Phoenix commercial photographer Jason Koster.

Homeless Youth in Portrait Box

When people look at my Natural Light Portraits I created in my portrait box they usually say my subjects look like they have been through something. In this case that something is Burning Man. lol When I was involved in the Picturing Maricopa Project I was paired up with an organization that provides assistance for homeless and at risk youth. After being around these kids for a couple weeks they certainly looked like they had been thought something.

One Saturday outside the homeless youth drop-in center in downtown Phoenix. “My parents dropped me off downtown and said don’t come home. There is no home to come back to.”


Editorial photography of homeless young woman sits on the ground with her backpack in a portrait box by Phoenix commercial photographer Jason Koster.
Roxy with backpack
Young homeless woman Roxy sitting in Jason Koster’s portrait box.
Roxy lets her hair down

With everything she owned in her backpack, Roxy didn’t want to leave it out of sight. She was reluctant but, pulled the hair tie out and did the hair flip like every young woman you’ve ever seen with long hair. In a cheery voice I said, ‘Look how pretty you are!’ She broke eye contact. There was a pause and in a sheepish voice she says, ‘It’s not always a good thing to be pretty out there’. The tension was awful. For now, it’s fine, I said ..and she looked at me. 

Unknown Young Man

Homeless young man sitting in Jason Koster’s portrait box.
Unknown young man

This young man drifted in and out. Malnourished and sleep deprived at least. He wouldn’t tell me his name and wouldn’t look in the camera. He wondered off like an unwanted balloon bumbling along the sidewalk. 

Unknown Young Woman

Black and white portrait of homeless black woman in Phoenix
Unknown young woman

The last young lady had just found a job and was almost self sufficient. She seemed very excited to be involved in something other than survival and was quickly spinning out of control with excitement. In an attempt to get her to focus I asked her to close her eyes. To my amazement, she did. Here was a person that has been taken advantage of by most of the people around her, cornered in a strangers so called ‘portrait box’ with a strange man pointing a camera at her while she sits there with her eyes closed completely vulnerable. Her heart appeared to be bursting with life, wonder and new opportunity. 
The trust was humbling. 

When we were done she sprang out of the box and ran inside like she had the most exciting news in the whole world to tell everyone. 
This was the last time I used that portrait box.

3 replies
  1. public accountin
    public accountin says:

    May I simply say what a relief to discover somebody that really knows what they’re talking about over the internet. You certainly realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important. A lot more people must read this and understand this side of the story. It’s surprising you are not more popular because you most certainly have the gift.

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