Trespass: Portraits of Unhoused Life, Love, and Understanding

Photographer, director, and writer Kim Watson provides an unflinching depiction of unhoused people in his striking photojournalistic collection, Trespass. Watson shares photographs, stories, and reflections (all with his subjects' permission) gathered over four years connecting with unhoused people on the streets of Los Angeles, Calif. Every page of Trespass is stunning, both in the visual impact of Watson's striking black-and-white photography and in the depth of the narratives he offers to accompany them. The combination brilliantly captures his subjects' complexity and humanity, inviting empathy and compassion from readers even as he condemns the systems that have failed so many. He recalls beautiful music heard, meals shared by those with none to spare, and families finding hope in unlikely places; he also recounts stories of caseworkers who never appear, phone calls unreturned, yearslong waiting lists for services, and the indignity of navigating a system never meant to recognize the humanity of those within it. "Is this the best we can do? The question haunts me."

It's a question that will--and should--haunt readers as well, one that makes it tempting to look away or skim past some of the more harrowing bits. But to refuse to engage with the reality Watson presents here is to perpetuate the same failures of society Watson has documented. This pain is "the price we as a society pay when we are complacent," Watson argues. Trespass is an invitation to view homelessness differently, to face biases and learned behaviors, to work toward true understanding, and care for those in dire situations. --Kerry McHugh, freelance writer

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