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Havas Düsseldorf Repictures the Homeless

Havas Düsseldorf Repictures the Homeless

Sulaiman Beg

Sulaiman Beg

March 6, 2018

“They looked at their own reflection in the mirror so carefully, as if it were a stranger.”

"We saw an opportunity to help shift the social perception."

At 56, Karl-Heinz Josef Hense has just completed his first photoshoot as a model. An impressive feat for anyone, but particularly for the Düsseldorf, Germany, native who has been homeless for 20 years.

Josef Hense was one of 11 first-time models for Havas Düsseldorf’s “Repicturing Homeless” campaign with Getty Images and fiftyfifty, a street magazine sold by homeless people in Düsseldorf.

Havas Düsseldorf used the homeless as models to shoot stock images, transforming them into everyday people from different walks of life—businessman, designer, chef, tourist, etc—all based on the most searched-for images on Getty Images. All profits from the downloaded photos will go to help the homeless at fiftyfifty.

“Instead of the usual cliché images of desperation and poverty that usually depict the homeless, we wanted to surprise people with our campaign and to make them think,” said Darren Richardson, Chief Creative Officer Havas Düsseldorf and Executive Creative Director Digital Havas Europe.

We spoke with Havas Dusseldorf creatives Tiago Beltrame and Nian He about the project, and why just doing a makeover wasn’t enough for the campaign.  

Tell us a little about how this project came together.

The brief came in from fiftyfifty, asking us to make a “different” homeless campaign, one that doesn’t leave anybody sad or guilty, but instead makes people hopeful and inspired. We saw an opportunity to help shift the social perception of the homeless community, and make a real impact.

Instead of just doing a makeover for the homeless, we wanted to go one step further. We wanted to take them out of the sad setting we often see them in, and portray them as everyday people just like any one of us, helping others to see them in a normal light.

In this sense, Getty Images was a perfect partner and client for this project. They immediately loved the idea, and started to push this project together with us.

"That was an emotional moment for all of us on the shooting crew."

What were some initial challenges and how did the team overcome them?

One of the initial challenges was to find the perfect role and situation for each of our homeless participants. We really studied the most requested search terms and the most downloaded photo themes on Getty, and we had in-depth discussions with the photographer, the stylist, the makeup artist, as well as the social workers at fiftyfifty, before we made the decision. This process made the makeover and the shooting easier and smoother.

Another challenge was staying in touch with all the homeless participants and making sure they showed up at the shooting, because many of them don’t have a contact address or a cell phone. We had to keep checking with the social workers at fiftyfifty, who have close relationships with their homeless vendors, and just keeping our fingers crossed. On the shooting day, when we saw them show up on the site one by one, we were very relieved, and also inspired by their efforts to be there.

Can you give us some insight into the shoots and some standout moments?

When we watched the models see their new image for the first time in the mirror, it was a very special moment. They looked at their own reflection in the mirror so carefully, as if they were seeing a stranger. A lot of them were surprised by the transformation. Some even got very emotional, like Kalle. He broke into tears, and just kept saying, “I feel like a new man.” That was an emotional moment for all of us on the shooting crew.

Another thing that left a great impression on us was to see them gradually enter the role they were modeling during the shooting. They started to act more and more like a businessman, a stylish fashion designer, an experienced chef, a happy traveller. They had great interactions with the shooting crew, and such amazing chemistry with the photographer. Bit by bit, you could see they gradually opened up more, and became more confident and comfortable with themselves. To see them enjoying the shooting so much made us even prouder about the project.

What do you hope this project achieves in both the short and long term?

In short term, we hope this campaign can raise public awareness of the homeless community, and start shifting the perceptions and narratives around them in a more positive direction. Once people begin to see the homeless as being just like everyone else, they’ll be more willing to treat homeless people the way every human deserves, and offer help when they have the chance.

Over the long term, with all profits from the photo downloads going to fiftyfifty, this campaign can raise extra funds for the homeless to help them get off the street. We are also sending the Getty photos of the homeless participants to talent model agencies, exposing them to potential new opportunities. Through Getty’s global network, more photographers and homeless organizations will join, which can grow the project into a movement, and help more homeless people.

"'Unexpected' imagery can also broaden the possibilities for people in reality."

How does this work help Getty Images make a meaningful connection with consumers?

This project helps to reinforce Getty Images as a brand striving to spur change and shape perceptions through powerful imagery. For years, Getty Images has been promoting endless possibilities for visual expression. This project moved the brand mission even further by demonstrating how “unexpected” imagery can also broaden the possibilities for people in reality.

Have you kept in touch with any of the models you worked with? If so, where are they now?

Yes, we just met four of the models again a few days ago: Kalle the “businessman,” Karl-Heinz the “fashion designer,” Michael the “professor,” and Vanessa the “bar owner”. They are still selling fiftyfifty on the street. Some are also doing some extra jobs. Their lives were not turned around by the project overnight, but when they talked about the shooting day, they felt happy, uplifted, and proud to be part of the project. When we showed them their final photos, they were very surprised and touched by the result.

The project received some great press, including being mentioned on the front page of Germany’s biggest daily newspaper, Bild. Were you surprised by the impact it made?

Generally, we are happy with the outcome so far. We are getting more and more press and TV coverage. People are sharing and talking about our project online—they are surprised by the photos, and are starting to rethink how they see the homeless. In addition, there are already inquiries on social media to join the project.

"We saw an opportunity to help shift the social perception."

At 56, Karl-Heinz Josef Hense has just completed his first photoshoot as a model. An impressive feat for anyone, but particularly for the Düsseldorf, Germany, native who has been homeless for 20 years.

Josef Hense was one of 11 first-time models for Havas Düsseldorf’s “Repicturing Homeless” campaign with Getty Images and fiftyfifty, a street magazine sold by homeless people in Düsseldorf.

Havas Düsseldorf used the homeless as models to shoot stock images, transforming them into everyday people from different walks of life—businessman, designer, chef, tourist, etc—all based on the most searched-for images on Getty Images. All profits from the downloaded photos will go to help the homeless at fiftyfifty.

“Instead of the usual cliché images of desperation and poverty that usually depict the homeless, we wanted to surprise people with our campaign and to make them think,” said Darren Richardson, Chief Creative Officer Havas Düsseldorf and Executive Creative Director Digital Havas Europe.

We spoke with Havas Dusseldorf creatives Tiago Beltrame and Nian He about the project, and why just doing a makeover wasn’t enough for the campaign.  

Tell us a little about how this project came together.

The brief came in from fiftyfifty, asking us to make a “different” homeless campaign, one that doesn’t leave anybody sad or guilty, but instead makes people hopeful and inspired. We saw an opportunity to help shift the social perception of the homeless community, and make a real impact.

Instead of just doing a makeover for the homeless, we wanted to go one step further. We wanted to take them out of the sad setting we often see them in, and portray them as everyday people just like any one of us, helping others to see them in a normal light.

In this sense, Getty Images was a perfect partner and client for this project. They immediately loved the idea, and started to push this project together with us.

"That was an emotional moment for all of us on the shooting crew."

What were some initial challenges and how did the team overcome them?

One of the initial challenges was to find the perfect role and situation for each of our homeless participants. We really studied the most requested search terms and the most downloaded photo themes on Getty, and we had in-depth discussions with the photographer, the stylist, the makeup artist, as well as the social workers at fiftyfifty, before we made the decision. This process made the makeover and the shooting easier and smoother.

Another challenge was staying in touch with all the homeless participants and making sure they showed up at the shooting, because many of them don’t have a contact address or a cell phone. We had to keep checking with the social workers at fiftyfifty, who have close relationships with their homeless vendors, and just keeping our fingers crossed. On the shooting day, when we saw them show up on the site one by one, we were very relieved, and also inspired by their efforts to be there.

Can you give us some insight into the shoots and some standout moments?

When we watched the models see their new image for the first time in the mirror, it was a very special moment. They looked at their own reflection in the mirror so carefully, as if they were seeing a stranger. A lot of them were surprised by the transformation. Some even got very emotional, like Kalle. He broke into tears, and just kept saying, “I feel like a new man.” That was an emotional moment for all of us on the shooting crew.

Another thing that left a great impression on us was to see them gradually enter the role they were modeling during the shooting. They started to act more and more like a businessman, a stylish fashion designer, an experienced chef, a happy traveller. They had great interactions with the shooting crew, and such amazing chemistry with the photographer. Bit by bit, you could see they gradually opened up more, and became more confident and comfortable with themselves. To see them enjoying the shooting so much made us even prouder about the project.

What do you hope this project achieves in both the short and long term?

In short term, we hope this campaign can raise public awareness of the homeless community, and start shifting the perceptions and narratives around them in a more positive direction. Once people begin to see the homeless as being just like everyone else, they’ll be more willing to treat homeless people the way every human deserves, and offer help when they have the chance.

Over the long term, with all profits from the photo downloads going to fiftyfifty, this campaign can raise extra funds for the homeless to help them get off the street. We are also sending the Getty photos of the homeless participants to talent model agencies, exposing them to potential new opportunities. Through Getty’s global network, more photographers and homeless organizations will join, which can grow the project into a movement, and help more homeless people.

"'Unexpected' imagery can also broaden the possibilities for people in reality."

How does this work help Getty Images make a meaningful connection with consumers?

This project helps to reinforce Getty Images as a brand striving to spur change and shape perceptions through powerful imagery. For years, Getty Images has been promoting endless possibilities for visual expression. This project moved the brand mission even further by demonstrating how “unexpected” imagery can also broaden the possibilities for people in reality.

Have you kept in touch with any of the models you worked with? If so, where are they now?

Yes, we just met four of the models again a few days ago: Kalle the “businessman,” Karl-Heinz the “fashion designer,” Michael the “professor,” and Vanessa the “bar owner”. They are still selling fiftyfifty on the street. Some are also doing some extra jobs. Their lives were not turned around by the project overnight, but when they talked about the shooting day, they felt happy, uplifted, and proud to be part of the project. When we showed them their final photos, they were very surprised and touched by the result.

The project received some great press, including being mentioned on the front page of Germany’s biggest daily newspaper, Bild. Were you surprised by the impact it made?

Generally, we are happy with the outcome so far. We are getting more and more press and TV coverage. People are sharing and talking about our project online—they are surprised by the photos, and are starting to rethink how they see the homeless. In addition, there are already inquiries on social media to join the project.

Sulaiman Beg is Havas' Director of Global Internal Communications. He has never eaten canned tuna fish.

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