Josh Kerr is a photographer and graphic designer based in Sheffield, England. Mainly exploring analog mediums such as 120 film, Kerr prefers to slow down in his work, taking time to enjoy the process from start to finish. Since joining Ephimera Kerr has created three works: “Matilda”, “Serenity”, and “Aaron.” It was “Aaron” that fascinated us the most, a video portrait with a promise to donate proceeds of the artwork sale to the Sheffield Archer Project.
When we saw the Josh Kerr’s work in the marketplace, we were intrigued to learn more about his video portraits. A technique used by many artists to capture the stillness of someone in a duration of time, video portraits are often accompanied by audio to provide another dimension of understanding. Examples can been seen in artist Robert Wilson’s Lady Gaga portrait from 2013, or perhaps most famously in Andy Warhol’s “Screen Tests”, in which Warhol creates hundreds of film portraits between 1964 and 1966 exploring a number of subjects as they sit still for three minutes.
Josh Kerr’s video portrait “Aaron” is a documentary work revealing an organic, unstaged moment between both parties that can only be captured when a relationship has been built between photographer and subject.
My pieces are a consensual focus on the person, giving the viewer a chance to hear their voice from a community that normalizes removing it.Josh Kerr
We interviewed Josh Kerr about the work to explore how he approached the project, his thoughts on the cycle of homelessness, and his decision to donate proceeds back to the community.
Ephimera: How did you meet Aaron?
Josh: Aaron politely sits outside my local supermarket. I once completely ignored him and the disgust of my actions haunted me around the shop, thinking about how his misfortune should not make him invisible. On the way out I made an effort to connect and we spoke about the state of the world for about an hour, this man has been on the streets since he was 13 yet he was so positive considering his situation and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The next time I saw him we spoke again, He insisted that he didn’t need anything from me saying “I have more than enough for today” but instead offered me a drink of his. We sat and spoke about how the English government system truly isn’t geared to help the homeless and even when housing is offered, the lack of support to teach them how to pay, budget, and generally survive is non-existent.
Ephimera: What was it about Aaron’s story that led you to creating this work?
Josh: At the end of our last encounter, I asked if he would be happy to be a part of a project to bring these issues to light and he was thrilled to tell his story. I was at a point with my work craving more pictures with a purpose and believed this was a good opportunity to venture into a more documentative style with my work on a subject I truly believe in.
Ephimera: Why do you think it’s important to focus on the issue of homelessness?
Josh: Homelessness isn’t someone else’s issue. It has a ripple effect throughout our community. It impacts the availability of healthcare resources, crime and safety, the workforce, and the use of tax money. The distribution of wealth and the divide is rotten. This is a preventable problem, and attitudes towards it need to change. It benefits all of us to break the cycle of homelessness, one person, one family at a time.
Ephimera: In photography we see many images fetishizing homelessness in a non-consensual relationship between subject and photographer, how do you approach this?
Josh: This concept was exactly why I sat on this project, battling with my ego of how it could be perceived vs what I’m trying to achieve. In fetishizing homelessness, we identify that these encounters are ‘out of place’ in relation to the spatial and aesthetic logic of capital and commodity consumption. Homelessness is almost seen as a spectacle, and almost rightly so that in our society it still exists, but I’m not here to abuse that. My pieces are a consensual focus on the person, giving the viewer a chance to hear their voice from a community that normalizes removing it.
Ephimera: Proceeds from the sale of this NFT will be donated to the Sheffield Archer Project. What was it about this organization, why did you choose it?
Josh: I had the opportunity to help out at The Archer Project a few times, I saw firsthand the incredible work they do. One of the many things they provide is to serve free food daily and they have become a lifeline and general hub for people looking for help in Sheffield.
Ephimera: Do you still keep in touch with Aaron?
Josh: I’ve seen Aaron a handful of times, and we always have a sit and catch-up but I have no way of directly contacting him. He reminds me how truly strong and positive we can be even in our darkest days.