I first meet affable cockney geezer Paul Hynes-Allen at a networking brunch. Approximately two hours late, he stumbled in looking a little dazed and confused but in a friendly and relatable way, much like when I meet him for a quick chat about his photography.
Focusing mainly on documenting Berlin's homeless community, Allen has always photographed the outsider, whether in his home town of Croydon in south London or in his home for the last eight years: Berlin. He shares an anecdote about life in his old home town, explaining “I lived with a schizophrenic person. His friend, this guy, [he gestures to a photograph in his portfolio] killed someone two weeks after I took the picture. The guy was so f*cked up they couldn't tell how he died. He's a sub-character though, the main character is really nice; he's schizophrenic but a good human being. We didn't really want this other guy around, but we didn't tell him to get lost because he was too scary!”
Inner City Beauty
He says all of this unflinchingly, accepting the shocking reality of the tale and talking about it calmly, even casually. He has seen many perturbing things in his lifetime, and now documenting Berlin's homeless, he is bound to see a fair deal more. He accepts that most of his subjects are on hard drugs, but that by photographing them “they have a moment of normality, and actually some of them are nice experiences; they're always different. Usually I photograph people who have some sort of beauty or a softness, and try to bring that out."