“Who are you?” is a powerful question, and it’s the one photographer Nigel Skeet uses before taking portraits for his new Homeless Rock Star Project.

Many of these subjects have never been asked that question. They haven’t been asked what their favorite movie is, or what kind of music they listen to.

But during what Skeet calls an “INNERview,” the answers to those questions become the basis of professional portraits that bring out the best in Redding, California’s homeless people.Photo charity Pictures of Hope

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“When we INNERview them, the questions are designed to break down barriers and spark a conversation. The questions and answers may seem boring or ‘normal’ to you and I, but that’s exactly the point,” Skeet told Good News Network. “Most of these people have never been asked these questions before, especially by members of the general public. This is one of the elements that spark that feeling of hope.”

homeless rockstars guy with hair copyright nigel skeet
Another Homeless Rock Star photo by Nigel Skeet

Before posing for their pictures, the men and women in these photos all sat down for a hair and makeup session – a first for most of them.

Cheryle (pictured, top left), has a knack for playing the harmonica. She loves the movie Phantom of the Opera, and enjoys eating miniature watermelons with yogurt. Before Skeet invited her into his studio, she hadn’t had the opportunity to tell anyone those things in quite some time.

“I had just become homeless and was alone for the first time, no family, no clothes. Being homeless and alone was all new to me,” she said. “I heard about this and thought to myself, ‘I need this!’ even though I didn’t know what to expect.”

Cheryle was self-conscious because some of her teeth were missing, but makeup artist Bethany made her feel beautiful in no time.

“It made me feel like I could do anything,” Cheryle said.

Cheryle is currently enrolled in college to become a guidance counselor for high-risk teens. She has taken English and Art, and is now taking Interpersonal Communication and Sign Language classes.

Mark is another portrait subject (pictured, top right), a 21-year-old who had been sleeping on the streets for some time. Now, he’s a certified nursing assistant, and finally has his own apartment.photobooth-dogs-UtahHumaneSociety

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“The photo shoot made me feel like I was worth something,” Mark said. “This project is so good because they talk to you and treat you like you’re human.”

Skeet first began photographing rock bands at age 14 during an AC/DC concert in Amsterdam in 1979. When he moved to L.A. in 1986 and landed in the middle of the hair metal scene, the Sunset Strip became his stomping ground. Later, when he opened his own studio in downtown Redding, people warned him to ‘beware of the homeless problem’ in town.

homeless rock stars nigel skeet in photo by Andrew Gant
Nigel Skeet – by Andrew Gant

It was then that Skeet decided to start bringing them into his studio and photographing them, interviewing his subjects just as he would his own friends. He also asks them to sign his studio wall before they leave.

“I wanted to create something specifically to show the community that these people are individuals with the same hopes, dreams and life experiences that we all have,” he said. “I was also shocked at how the entire atmosphere within the studio shifted once we got started.”

On July 1st, he’ll be hosting a Homeless Rock Stars Youth Event in Redding. Homeless youth are encouraged to enroll now, and to keep this in mind: the first step in helping people get out of homelessness is confronting the stigma head-on and making the word ‘homeless’ completely meaningless.

“We know that’s not who you are and we will remind the world of just that,” he said.

To see more stories and portraits, check out HomlessRockstars.com or visit them on Facebook.

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