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The Human Behind the Photograph – an interview with an artist

Jacqueline Woods is a digital based photographer in Durham Region who specializes in documentary, portraits, and events. Her display in the lobby at the Central Library, The Human Behind the Photograph : Living on the Streets, is a series of black and white photographs that feature portraits of people she met living on the street. We wanted to find out more about this powerful exhibit. Jacqueline shared her insight with us in this interview.

WPL:  What was it like for you taking these portraits?

Jacqueline: In the beginning, it was very eye opening for me. I never realized how open they would become with me, especially when I am a stranger to them. From going out and speaking with these people, I have been able to create beautiful friendships and connections that I will cherish forever.


WPL: What was the inspiration behind your powerful photographs?

Jacqueline:  I am heavily influenced by photographers Leah Den Bok, Lee Jeffries, and Pedro Oliveira.  Each of these artists specialize in street photography with their main subject, human beings experiencing homelessness, poverty, addictions, and mental health.  Their work is powerful, and their messages are impactful. They inspire me every day to use my platform to convey important messages.  


WPL:  Did you encounter any challenges with this project?

Jacqueline:  Before I started this series, I had found an interest in street photography. I suffer from generalized anxiety and am someone who would never go up to strangers, let alone ask to take their photo. But I decided it was time for me to get out of my comfort zone and do something that scared me.  The impact on Leah’s work has inspired me to do this series.  I have encountered a few other challenges along the way. When I shoot these photographs, the location is dependent on where I find the subjects. The lighting situations can sometimes be non-ideal. Timing is another one. I try to be as quick as possible when getting the shot, as I do not want the subjects to feel overwhelmed. Majority of my work is done in post-production.


WPL:  How did you decide who to photograph?

Jacqueline:  I am very inclusive when it comes to this series. I tend to encounter individuals one on one as I find groups can become overwhelming for me.  I encounter individuals that are awake and alert. I try to avoid those that I feel may not be in right state of mind because I understand they aren’t able to fittingly consent to their photograph being taken.


WPL:  What are you hoping the public will takeaway from your exhibit?

Jacqueline:  Lee Jeffries said it best, “I want people to look at my photographs and see the person, not the homeless person. I want them to see the humanity. These are people who have led such incredibly hard lives, and yet they maintain their dignity. I wanted to try and capture that.”     
My hope is for the public to see the human behind the photograph. I want the public to hear their stories and receive a better understanding of their situations. The subjects deserve to feel heard. They deserve acknowledgment, compassion, respect and security. My goal is to change the audience’s perception and put an end to the stigma. 

Link to the article:


Jacqueline collaborated with The Humane Society of Durham Region through November 25-26 2023 at Sheridan Nurseries, capturing and fundraising pet pix with Santa. Through this event, The Humane Society raised an astounding $10,759.66!


In May of 2023, Jacqueline collaborated with Back Door Mission. 

“We're sharing powerful images and stories of individuals facing challenges around homelessness, addictions, housing shortage, and also just regular day to day problems we're all feeling the pressure from.”

We asked each participating patron a follow up question in regard to their portrait being taken. “What is one message you would like to tell the viewer?” Their responses have been included with their portrait. 

“We hope that these photos will help to humanize homelessness and inspire compassion and understanding. Join us in sharing these stories and raising awareness for those who are facing difficult times. Together, we can make a difference.”

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