Inspired by: Lee Jeffries
A chance encounter with a homeless girl that he grabbed a snapshot of changed Lee Jeffries’ life forever. An accountant by trade, Lee was so moved by this girl’s story that he made it his mission to highlight the plight of the homeless... and use his art to raise funds to help them.
Over the last decade, Lee has photographed thousands of homeless people throughout Europe and America and published two celebrated books of his work. This week we’re going to see what you can learn from his style and heartfelt approach.
The Jeffries method
Essentially, Lee Jeffries is a street photographer but with a difference, because he’s intent on making genuine connections with the people he photographs. For this reason, he uses a 24mm lens because it means that he has to be very close to his subjects to take their portraits, and that’s only possible with their permission.
Lee spends time getting to know every homeless person he photographs because he says that he wants to shoot them from the inside out rather than the other way around. Yes, he’s interested in their physical characteristics, but only as an expression of who they are. It’s this that sets him apart and has led people to talk about his work in reverential tones.
From a technical point of view, his portraits are all headshots, concentrating on high contrast and a slightly surreal feel due to the 24mm lens he uses.
Learning from Lee
We don’t really think of Lee as a technical photographer – even though his images are visually stunning – and he proves that rules are made to be broken. Using a 24mm lens on a full-frame camera for portraits is generally frowned upon, but Lee knows what that allows him to do – get really close and intimate with his subjects. This shows that breaking the rules is fine as long as you know why you’re doing it, and have a clear vision for your photography.
If you look through his body of work you’ll see absolute consistency and a clearly defined style, which is something that you should strive for, if you wish to make a name for yourself.
Other than that, the clear take home from Lee is how important it is to understand your subject and get them to open up and show their true nature to you. It can be the difference between a snapshot and an image you’ll be proud to print onto canvas and display anywhere – and that’s what we admire most about Lee Jeffries.