This is my Life!

Street children photograph their daily lives

A project in cooperation with 'Caritas der Erzdiözese Wien' and „SOS“ - Social Organisation for Students (Sumy, Ukraine) and The Charity Foundation ASPERN (Kiev, Ukraine).

Thirteen young people ages fourteen to twentyone signed up for a photography workshop at a center for street children in Kiev. The nine boys and four girls waited with bated breath for the first day of the workshop, excited to try their hand as photographers.

These thirteen youths live on the street; they sleep in boiler rooms or abandoned buildings. Every day, they must find a way to forage for food, hope that their sleeping places haven’t been discovered or taken over and beg for spare change.

Their childhoods and innocence are long gone. Most of them do have parents; however, they have decided that a life on the street is far more preferable than one trapped in poverty, alcoholism or violence. The general tone of the group is rough and crude, yet they genuinely care about each other and stick close together. One of the girls, Alla, missed one of the workshops, and her friends made sure to save some food for her.   

From their perspective

"Sometimes I feel like I’m behind bars.
Not locked in, but locked out."

The participants were soon clamoring for a chance to take their skills outside, in spite of the cold and heavy snowfall. They took lighthearted selfportraits as well as of more structured themes like action-packed sports photography. They practiced composition, perspective and technique with two photographers. They captured moments in their sleeping places, in the soup kitchens, with their friends. These photos show how the street children see themselves and their daily struggles, rather than the voyeuristic view of an outsider. They are honest, completely devoid of self-pity and real.

A brighter outlook

"We would like to be a real football team.
We could definitely go far with a trainer!"

I am convinced that street children and young people are themselves the experts when it comes to telling the truth about life on the streets. Through photography, thirteen kids were given the opportunity to transform a harsh life on the streets, in soup kitchens and in the relative warmth of canals and cellars into art. The children alone decided how they would portray themselves, how much they would expose. In Kiev, a photography workshop at a center for street kids run by the organization Fonds Aspern taught them the basics of digital and analog photography, and they were then given free reign to utilize their new skills.
These photos are an authentic, striking and shockingly honest depiction of life on the streets. The children are contemplative and sad, happy and proud. They are proud of the hardships they have overcome and of how they continue to forge ahead. A selection of the best photos are included in the current catalog and are also on tour throughout Austria, to bring attention to the extreme poverty of these children and, most importantly, to collect donations for a desperately needed center dedicated to helping street kids.
Let yourself be moved by the simple power of these photos as they document the everyday joys and struggles of street children in Kiev.
Alice Uhl
Project Supervisor

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