The Prince and the Pauper - Horia Manolache

"I'm trying to change a mentality, a generalisation that has made its mark on the homeless people. I found a common misperception in which homeless people are also mentally ill, lazy and so on. I hope my project will do some justice in this matter and I hope it is a part of a bigger movement in which the social system will try to emulate on people's needs and not the people on the system's needs. My project is about the dreams of the people who have forgotten to dream or couldn't dream. They reached a moment in their life when they don't have food, water, they don't have a place to wash themselves, the bank took their house, their mind is unsettled from war horrors or they are wanted by police for an unpaid bill.

Now imagine you are in this moment and you want to dream.”


Horia Manolache takes the camera to create an intimate atmosphere between the viewer and these characters, homeless people that stop their life for a second to think about their forgotten dreams in front of Manolache's lenses. With this material, he is now developing a crowdfunding campaign to publish a book about 'Homeless people as they dreamed to become' from his project 'The Prince and the Pauper', to raise awareness. 

"My book will be about them and the moment when they had the pace to dream and to speak with somebody about their problems without fearing anything. And you will see beautiful people with beautiful minds."


Why did you wanted to talk about the dreams of the homeless people through your images?

It seemed to me that when you are doing what you dreamed to do, you are successful. Successful for yourself, and that’s what’s important. And that was the idea, to show them successful, proud, beautiful. The way they are not usually shown. I imagined the images printed big and the viewer to have the opportunity to meet them closer. To analyze them without fear.


Why do you use this style for this project?

It seemed that the “editorial” style tells they are “successful” better, that was my intention. To show them as a magazine will never show them. I also wanted for the people to wish to be as them, if you know what I mean.To envy them. Rembrandt painted rich people in this way so he was a landmark for me.


You are making a crowdfunding project to create a book from this series, how is the experience going?

It has up and downs. I cannot predict when I will raise more money or not. Sometimes the interest stops and sometimes it starts. Otherwise, a writer and activist from San Francisco will collaborate with me for this book so we can make it more about San Francisco and more about suggesting solutions and not just about showing the problem. I raised some money but still not enough to be able to do the project.


Tell us the story that shocked you the most for some reason.

I didn’t get shocking stories. Maybe Tammy and the way her kids where taken from her by the husband who was sexually molesting them.


Which was the most difficult part of the project for you? Do you have some similar project in mind for the future?

I remember that each week I wanted to stop. You never know if you will meet again the people. It happens to schedule photo shoots and the people never showed up. The problem was that at first I had to ask them what their dream was and then to find the clothing and props. And when you have everything and the person doesn't show up, you get frustrated.


What gear –talking about camera and post processing– did you use and how was your workflow to create these collection?

I started with a 4x5 film camera and with a Canon 5D Mark II in parallel for back up. But after two portraits I realized that some people couldn't stand still for that much and I stopped to photograph with the 4x5 camera. The process is thorough but the well being of the people was more important. It happened to photograph people that were barely standing.


Which is your favorite picture from your work and why?

I think Frank. His face and attitude reminds me of Bruce Springsteen (I’m a big fan). He is very charismatic and beautiful. Beyond this, he was very kind. Even if he had two jobs (it took me three weeks to do both photos) he was always wishing to help me doing the project. He even told me a story from a place he worked. He mounted a bathtub worthing 1 million in a house from San Francisco. What a contrast. He lived in a self made house wondering when the police will come to take it.


Photographer: Horia Manolache  |  Website  |  Facebook  |  Instagram  |  Crowdfunding

Styling: Catalina Manolache


Frank · Army officer
I met Frank in Hunterspoint, San Francisco. He lived in a self-made trailer along with his wife and her dog. A big concern for him was that the police will take his house. He says he was raised with a butler but drugs brought him here. He was working in constructions when I met him, we had to photograph him on the street and on a building site. His wife wished to be a ballerina but because she was overweight, she felt uncomfortable to pose for this project. Frank is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met.


Tammy · Model
Tammy is a star on Height Street in San Francisco. If she can’t bring a smile on your face, then nobody will. Her biggest pain is that her grandmother and her first husband took the kids away from her.


Michael · Sailor
I met Michael twice, first we couldn’t do the photo shoot and he was really angry. I met him again after several months and he seemed reconciled with himself. In this photo he shows me the tattoo with his son’s name and he tells me that he misses him. He lost his mom, his job and his house in two days.


Shad · Police officer
This photo is somehow symbolic for me for the times we live in. His identity was stolen, his girlfriend stole his wallet, his credit score went down and so on till he got homeless. He realised that his life was so overwhelming so he didn’t have a moment to stop and think what his dreams were.


McKayas · Clown
McKayas lived very close to Haight Street when he was a kid. He is proud that his parents were part of the hippie movement in the 60’s. He lived in Mexico, Hawaii, Indonesia, Panama, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Peru and he plans to visit every country in the world.


Bill · Philosopher
Bill had to run away from the state he was living. The reason he had to leave seems unjust but his alternative was jail. He wished to send these photos to his mother because she has Alzheimer and in this way she will recognise him when he will be back.


Henry · Navy officer
Henry is a former drug and alcohol addict. He is selling newspapers now for an organisation that takes care of the homeless people. He is from Mississippi, at a point in his life he had to choose between his mother and father and that marked him.


Honey · Marine biologist
Honey run away from home because of her violent husband. She had a car in which she slept but it broke and the police took it so she had to sleep in the park. She learned how to play ukulele by herself and she knows how to sing with spoons. She is called Honey because of her sweet voice. She had her first performance in the hotel where I photographed her.


Mike · Palaeontologist
Mike was the first to be in this project. He comes from Ohio, he had to run from there because he used to smoke weed and the police caught him so he was arrested. He is now rebuilding his life, he has a place to stay and he started to work, thanks to an organisation from San Francisco.


Pops · Chef
Pops was in Vietnam war. He was an engineer, he started to do drugs and he lost his job. He was addicted for 12 years and he was in a rehab clinic. Unfortunately, he is now an alcoholic.


Max · Coal miner
Max is a Vietnam and Gulf war veteran. He’d been serving the army for 43 years. He says that when he returned he gave up everything and went on the streets. He has now problems with alcohol and he barely walks because of the health problems. He traveled a lot. A regret that he has is that he doesn’t speak with his daughter anymore.


Hatter · Pilot
Hatter was one person that helped me with this project. He had a company that did events in California but once, because in the event the authorities found somebody that was under 18, he got fined with more than a 100,000$ so he had to quit.