The Bigger Issue- PhelanPhoto

The Big Issue. A magazine sold on the streets. We often, obliviously, walk past the vendors and those who are homeless. But do you ever wonder who they are and what stories they have to tell?

That’s what 23 year old photographer, Mikey Phelan, wanted to find out and what became the basis of his project, ‘The Bigger Issue’.

“I first wanted to create this project because I realised that Big Issue vendors have a bad reputation, as being worthless, drug and drink addicted, wastes of space,” Mikey said, “along with the rest of the homeless community.”

Living in a suburb of London, and with his business also based there, Mikey has witnessed several people living on the streets, especially those who sell ‘The Big Issue’. He went on to explain that he had previously spoken to those who sell the magazine and knew that this bad perception of them was not true.

“I know this is not the case,” he said. Through his project, Mikey wanted to show them as real people, as individuals, not just as the homeless.

His photography project focuses on the magazine ‘The Big Issue’ and the vendors who sell it. He chose to shoot in colour and daylight, differing from previous, more traditional approaches to photographing the homeless.

He said, excitedly: “I have a passion for documentary reportage and purse that in my spare time, including projects such as ‘The Bigger Issue.’”

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Mikey mainly works as a freelance photographer in the areas of commercial, portraiture, food and events.

He also offers a range of services including family photoshoots, pet photography, party photography and commercial portrait.

He became involved in photographer at a young age. “I first got into photography when I was thirteen through my father and my best friend, who also had an interest in photography.

“From there I studied photography at college and then university,” he explained. “Once I finished my degree I decided to start working freelance.”

‘The Bigger Issue’ project began with an essay called ‘A Hand up not a Hand out’ which researched the motives and philosophy of ‘The Big Issue’ magazine.

The finished project shares the knowledge Mikey has gained from researching and documenting the stories of the homeless.

Mikey is also currently finishing a book which contains these stories, which go alongside their photographs. This was partly inspired by the Brandon Stanton project, ‘Humans of New York’.

The full book will soon be available to buy on Blurb.

For further information about both his commercial work and about ‘The Bigger Issue’, you can visit Mikey’s website.

You can also read his essay, ‘A Hand up not a Hand out’.

Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.


LpolkinghorneWritten by Laura Polkinghorne


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