St ry behind the

picture ‘Smile! You could be in my shoes, trust me they stink!’ By Chris Frear

Placards catch my attention because there’s always a personal story behind them. This one was no different. It belonged to Jon, a homeless man in Cleethorpes. I took the image (with permission) in May 2018, when Jon was sleeping rough. He’d lost his home after having spent a short time in prison for assaulting a man he caught in bed with his then girlfriend. On this day, Jon was using the deck chair attendant’s shed to shelter

from gales blowing in off the North Sea. I was pleasantly surprised when he allowed me to take his picture. I bought Jon a hot meal to say thanks. The image went on my website together with a collection of images documenting life in my home town. Almost a year to the day, an agency contacted me asking to use the

image. It turned out Jon had turned his life around, got a home, found a new partner and started a small gardening business. He’d sold his story to a press agency, who needed a picture of when he was homeless. Jon remembered me and sent the agency in my direction. Half an hour after agreeing terms, they rang back and commissioned me to take some contemporary pictures. The brief requested I photograph Jon back at the shed where I’d photographed him a year earlier. Personally, I preferred another set of images of Jon symbolically throwing his old shoes (those he’d worn on the streets) in the bin. They really did stink. Jon’s story ran as an exclusive in the Sunday Mirror, but was picked up and reprinted by The Sun and Metro newspapers here in the UK and as far away as Sarajevo, Moscow and Indonesia.

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