RMIT advertising students bring the stories of Melbourne's homeless to life in a fascinating new exhibition.
The Full Picture - Exhibiting the real voices of homelessness breaks down one-dimensional representations of homeless people in the media through a series of immersive visual and audio pieces.
The exhibition, which opens on Friday, 3 October, is inspired by interviews and photography conducted by third year Bachelor of Communication (Advertising) students as part of a final year subject.
During this process, students Tess Dawson, Beth Gibson, Caitlin Shannon and Emma Hardy were awed by the disparity between the stereotypes surrounding homelessness and the individuals in front of them.
Failing to be defined by their situation, the interview subjects instead expressed words of passion, belief and idiosyncrasy.
The interviews and photographs were sent out to Australian artists, who were asked to create a work of art capturing the spirit of each person's story.
The exhibition comprises the works of 15 emerging and established artists who took up that challenge, including Archibald Prize finalists Zoe Young and Abdul Abdullah.
Each portrait is accompanied by an audio piece in the subject's own voice, encouraging the viewer to fully immerse themselves in the life of the individual through art and conversation.
Tess Dawson, who is both organising and submitting a piece for the exhibition, said the project challenged the way people who have experienced homelessness were portrayed in the media.
"I feel they get put into this category of homelessness that doesn't acknowledge the fact that they are also human beings or that homelessness is an experience that doesn't fully define a person," she said.
Fellow exhibition organiser, Beth Gibson, said the project aimed to answer the call for greater artistic representation for this group.
"We hope our exhibition serves as a reminder that homelessness is an experience that can happen to anyone, and people who've experienced it all have enormously different stories," she said.
"We've used art and audio as two engaging, creative media, and we hope this will help take the conversation out of the rational, purpose-driven realm of the mainstream media, and into a more human and empathetic space."
Ms Gibson said RMIT's emphasis on practical experience was instrumental in nurturing an idea for a student project into a remarkable platform for social change.
"We started with just an idea, with no funding and no experience behind us," she said.
"The fact that we are actually putting on a real exhibition is amazing, and largely because RMIT encourages and supports these kind of real world projects.
"You're not just working in hypotheticals - you're executing a real event or advertising campaign."
All portraits will be sold, with the majority of proceeds going to the Council to Homeless Persons as well as smaller initiatives like The Beginning of a New Journey, a Melbourne-based project for women who have experienced domestic violence.
Following a launch event at Open Studios, Nicholas Building, 37 Swanston Street, on Friday, 3 October the exhibition will move to Lentil As Anything, Footscray from Saturday, 4 October to Saturday, 11 October.
Ms Gibson will embark on a career in communications next year with fond memories of the project, as well as her time in the Advertising degree.
"The project has really been such an exciting, challenging and rewarding process and we feel lucky to have had the opportunity to do it," she said.
The RMIT Bachelor of Communication (Advertising) provides professional preparation for students entering the highly competitive global Advertising industry.
One of the few creative advertising degrees which teach business and creative strategy, the program is ranked number five in the world and number one in Australia.