Four Feet Under

By Tamsen Courtenay

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Thirty homeless people share the secrets of their lives, through first-hand accounts, conversations and intimate photographs

Publication date: Summer 2018
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About the book

A businessman, a builder, a transsexual woman, a soldier, a child prostitute, an elderly couple, a battered wife and many more describe - in their own words - the events that led to the life they live now, four feet under the rest of us, on pavements and in shop doorways. They talk of childhoods, jobs, their strengths and weaknesses, dreams and regrets. They share opinions, fears and petty snobberies, all with humour and a breathtaking lack of guile.

The 30 people I met during two months on London’s streets became my heroes. Their stories are the backbone of the book, recorded and then transcribed verbatim, with portraits and photographs of their affairs. My adventures and observations are threaded throughout. I met people who made me laugh till I shook and changed forever the way I look at cardboard. I was beaten badly with a piece of wood by a drunk (non-homeless) man in a suit, and I discovered what ‘crack’ looks (and smells) like.


It was a mini-odyssey spent mostly in the rain, with chewing gum stuck to my frozen backside, aching joints, bronchitis, blistered feet and coffee stains down my front where passersby had knocked me as I sat. For me, it was a privilege.I didn’t have to go very far to find these home-grown exiles. I didn’t need foreign currency, a phrase book (although there were times when one might have been handy) or a passport. My Oyster card was enough. They aren’t on distant shores, they’re at the bottom of your road. Have you ever wondered how they got there?

George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London meets Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York ... but with exceptionally intimate imagery and a directness and detail that is new.

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