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on 6 October 2002
This moving book brings the people who live on the street into focus. Moyra Peralta’s sensitive photographs are greatly enhanced by her text. She is concerned that “homelessness in our affluent city should not go unrecorded”. The pictures have an intimacy and insight that increases our understanding and appreciation as her record of over 25 years unfolds with “images that tell of the difficulties and hardships that people on the street endure”.
Her close work with the people of the street gave her an appreciation of them as individuals and personalities. Every picture has been made with the consent and co-operation of the subject - sometimes after many months of building up a friendship. She remains friends with many of the subjects.
In a contributing essay to the book, the eminent philosopher/writer John Berger says that the homeless are “treated as if they ought to be invisible”. Perhaps this is where the title ‘Nearly Invisible’ came from. He also echoes Moyra Peralta’s own words that “I hear with my eyes” in his comment that this book makes us “overhear, with our eyes” what goes on in the subjects’ lives.
Praise of the photographs and words cannot be too high. The structure, too, is interesting bar a great weakness in that there are no page numbers and the captions are separated from the pictures. This makes it difficult to match the photographs with their captions as you go along. This is unfortunate as there is much important information in the captions, again weakened by being in very small print.
This cavil apart, the book is interestingly divided into eight segments. Words are sometimes introductions, sometimes summaries. “Notebook jottings” here and there from the photographer’s long kept record give welcome insights and information, moving the narrative forward and clarifying the chronology.
In all, this book fulfils the photographer’s intention “to rescue people, in a visual sense, from oblivion… and celebrate their lives”.
Highly recommended.
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on 11 March 2002
I awoke early on a Sunday morning. It was cold and dark. I crept downstairs, switched on the light and the central heating of my comfortable home and made a cup of tea. Then I reached for my new book - a brand new book called Nearly Invisible by Moyra Peralta FRPS. I had been lucky to purchase an early copy and wanted to spend time with it.
Nearly Invisible is a different sort of book. There are words, poignant words, but this book is about pictures, pictures of the homeless of London. In affluent London in the year 2001, a book about the homeless outcasts of London which you cannot just flick through. Not set up for the photographer as is so much photojournalism today. These are pictures which will change your perception and understanding of your fellow man.
So what is the big issue? Well, an underground vent is the height of luxury, then comes the marble shop-front mattress. But when alcohol no longer brings comfort and cardboard and newspaper no longer keep you warm, the council makes it's final gift of a black plastic bag and you are gone.
Do not read this book unless you are willing to be shaken and disturbed. But if you want to glimpse the love of mankind in the entrails of London, it is the love of Moyra Peralta which you are privileged to share.
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on 7 July 2005
There is a huge temptation when faced with pictures of the homeless and destitute to look the other way, or turn the page. It is not simply because as in life, we would rather not be reminded, rather it is the equally sad fact that the subject itself is clichéd.
Let me stop before I dig a hole. That the subject is clichéd does not mean that it should not be re-examined, that it should not be forced back to our attention. It should. Moyra Peralta's work, however, is as far removed from the cliché as it is possible to be. Nearly Invisible is a massively important book and deserves to be seen by a wide audience.
The significance of the book is not the photography itself, rather it is the manner in which years of dedication to this one subject have given Peralta an absolutely unique insight into the very humanity of the homeless, a humanity society as a whole prefers to overlook if not ignore. The combination of imagery, text, poetry and interview forces the reader to examine his or her own reaction to a compelling issue. Consequently Nearly Invisible can justifiably be regarded as documentary journalism at its best.
It would be fair to say that the book is the culmination of a lifetime's work. A former care worker, Moyra Peralta FRPS has been documenting the lives of the dispossessed since the 1970s. Some thirty years ago she was invited to work as a volunteer on soup runs, in night shelters and hostels. Over time, and by invitation she found herself face to face with a world she had not known existed, and she "began to take photographs, recording both the grim scenes... and the remarkable and spirited men and women whom I met."
It is clear from her writing that Peralta's motivation is not to produce works of art to hang onto walls, but rather to challenge perceptions of what homelessness itself means to us in the UK in the twenty-first century. Peralta is driven by a profound belief in what she is doing, and that determination when coupled with her empathy for the subject creates a powerful combination. Clearly there are others who would agree, as both John Berger and Alan Bennett supplied texts for inclusion in the book.
Ironically, I found myself considering the prospect that for all my relative wealth, the people caught by Peralta's lens were more alive than me... as a result, and somewhat perversely, I found myself engrossed in the lives portrayed in Nearly Invisible and feeling appalled at the lack of compassion I have displayed in the past. Moyra Peralta forces the reader to question the basic values of life, compassion and decency that we all imagine we hold dear. She achieves this by producing a balanced and objective essay which somehow exudes compassion without allowing that compassion to either cloud facts or bubble over into cloying sentimentality. As an example of concerned humanitarian photography at its best, Peralta's work deserves to be applauded, and seen widely.
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