It all started when...
I received an email from London on December 6th, 2015:
"My name is Joshua Coombes and I am a hairdresser from U.K. Recently I have started a project cutting hair for homeless people on the street in different cities. I will be in Paris on 17th-20th December doing this.
I am trying to find a photographer to document this one day for me. Please have a look at my Instagram - @joshuacoombes if you want to see more on what I've been doing. Or check out the #dosomethingfornothing
I understand this is quite a random request but I would love to hear back from you as it would be amazing to have a Parisian photographer to help me.
Hope to hear from you! Thanks, Joshua :)"
Although I was unable to be in Paris on those days, I immediately looked for someone local to help Josh. Laurent Demartini volunteered and spent those two days on the streets of Paris with Joshua. I was happy to be able to help, but sad that I couldn't be there myself.
Josh and I stayed in touch, determined that one day our paths would cross, and I would have the opportunity to tell his story through my lens. Thanks to the support of Fujifilm North America, who brought us together on the streets of New York City for 4 days last week, we finally made it happen!
We hit the ground running as soon as I landed on Tuesday afternoon. Josh had arrived from the U.K. a couple of days earlier. I couldn’t wait to meet Josh and start documenting his work. My X100F was loaded and ready to capture compassion and hope.
Over the following four days on the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn, we met people from all different backgrounds. Homelessness can happen to anyone at any time. White or black, young or old, misfortune and adversity don’t discriminate.
Working with my Fujifilm X100F was the perfect choice for this project. The 23mm focal length allowed me to be physically close, while its small size and silent shutter made it unobtrusive and non intimidating. Every subject agreed to be photographed, but I didn’t start shooting right away, and Josh didn’t start cutting hair immediately either. Our first role was to listen, wipe tears and give hugs. We were always rewarded by the brightest smiles in the end!
What’s next for Josh? He obviously found his calling. As he recently wrote on Instagram: “This isn’t charity, it’s connection. It’s keeping all doors open to listen to others and learn.” I want to do all I can to support him in his mission to bring smiles in our challenging world, one haircut at a time. By doing so and sharing his experience, he is influencing others to also Do Something For Nothing, whatever that may be.
As for me, this project was life changing. I’ve been wanting to work on a humanitarian project for quite a while, and this is the perfect fit. Josh and I work well as a team, and the images I collected were definitely the most important photographs I’ve ever shot.
We wish to keep working together whenever possible to document other stories in other cities, to raise awareness and share the love. An ebook #DoSomethingForNothing in NYC is in the works to raise funds to help Josh keep doing what he does with so much passion. We also want to show the recent photo documentary in galleries.
Don’t forget to follow Josh on Instagram to see his before and after pics!
Note: Listen to episode 52 on my podcast Hit The Streets with Valerie Jardin for a special conversation with Joshua Coombes.
See all the photographs in this gallery.