Zae became homeless in the Perth CBD last year when home was no longer an option.
“Growing up … I didn’t get what I needed. I had to search for it elsewhere and didn’t learn what a home is supposed to feel like.”
Using photography, Zae now has the chance to tell that story with a new exhibition opening today as part of national Homelessness Prevention Week.
The project, The Home Is Where My Heart Is, pairs photographers with young people who have been homeless.
Zae was often caught up in dangerous situations, and before the mentoring project, had never touched a professional camera.
“Desperation can call anywhere home. I’m amazed by my ability to find home in so many places over such a short time. At 15, I found home in strangers’ arms, baring marks of a past life to them in cars, houses, dark streets, parks,” Zae said.
“Home was an empty carriage on the 10:30 train to anywhere. A journey to the moon and back, an outfit change and too tired to sleep but hidden from the system’s wandering eyes.”
Teaming up with international photographer Jarrad Seng, Zae chose the theme of feet.
“I used to sit on the ground and watch people’s feet walk past me,” Zae said.
“Three of the pictures are all taken in train stations because I used to spend a lot of time hanging out at train stations so they are really familiar.
“The one called Can You See Me? … it’s in the underground, and it’s about watching other people move on with their lives but feeling like you are stuck. So it’s like, ‘well everyone else’s world goes on without me’.”
Seng said Zae had a natural talent for storytelling.
“It was amazing to see Zae’s confidence and skill level grow with each photography challenge we set ourselves.”
“Not having a safe place to sleep at night is a foreign concept to most Australians, including myself. The exhibition is a chance to gain a rare human insight behind the headlines, news grabs and statistics,” he said.
The project is run by the Youth Affairs Council of WA and, in its eighth year, has provided mentors for more than 50 young people.
The exhibition is due to run until August 14 at 108 St Georges Tce. All photos are for sale, with proceeds set to help pay for next year’s project.