Four Feet Under

By Tamsen Courtenay

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

London | Photography
112% funded
365 supporters
Published

Publication date: Summer 2018

Buy
book cover
You made Four Feet Under a reality. It's available in all good book stores now.
$15 
78 pledges

Digital

E-book edition
Choose this reward
$30  + shipping
199 pledges

Hardback

1st edition hardback and the e-book edition
Choose this reward

Sold out!

$50  + shipping
20 pledges

Collectable

Signed 1st edition hardback and the e-book edition
$55  + shipping
40 pledges

Sleeping bag

A life jacket for the pavement. Buy a sleeping bag, which Tamsen will donate to a rough sleeper. Plus the 1st edition hardback and the e-book edition
$80  + shipping
10 pledges

Read with a friend

Two signed 1st edition hardbacks, and the e-book edition
$95  + shipping
3 pledges

Speak truth to power

Buy a signed copy for yourself and send a copy to an MP of your choice with a personalised cover letter on your behalf from the author
$105  + shipping
3 pledges

Unpublished images

A selection of six 4 x 6-inch prints of photographs that were not used in the book, plus the e-book edition and your name in the back of the book
Limited numbers available
$155  + shipping
3 pledges

Photography

A 10 x 12-inch gicleé print of any non-portrait image in the book, plus everything at the Collectable level
Limited number available
$195  + shipping
3 pledges

Portrait

A 10 x 12-inch gicleé print of any portrait in the book, plus everything at the Collectable level
Limited number available
$260  + shipping

Tour

A tour of the places featured in the book, plus everything at the Collectable level
Travel and expenses not included
Numbers limited
$325  + shipping
2 pledges

Portrait photography class

How to photograph people in busy environments, using a digital camera with natural light, plus everything at the Collectable level
Central London. Travel and expenses not included
Numbers limited
$390  + shipping
1 pledge

Original artwork

An original signature or sketch by one of the people featured in the book, plus everything at the Collectable level
Numbers limited
$1,290  + shipping
2 pledges

Super friend

Your name or your company's name in a special section at the top of the supporters list at the back of the book, plus everything at the Collectable level
$6,450  + shipping
1 pledge

Patron

Your name or your company’s name printed in the front of the book thanking you for your contribution, plus everything at the Collectable level

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I get my book delivered to?

We deliver to most countries worldwide. Enter your delivery address during checkout and we'll display the shipping cost when we know where to send your book.

How do supporter names work?

Every person who pledges to help to make a book gets their name included in a supporter section as a thank you. If you want to add a different name, this can be changed in your account after you have completed your pledge.

Still have a question? Visit our Help Centre to find out more.

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.

Buy

Quick select rewards

$30  + shipping
199 pledges

Hardback

1st edition hardback and the e-book edition
Choose this reward
$15 
78 pledges

Digital

E-book edition
Choose this reward
  • Tamsen Courtenay avatar

    Tamsen Courtenay

    Tamsen Courtenay worked as an investigative journalist for the BBC’s Panorama and Channel 4’s Dispatches, looking at the forces that shape our world. Three events led to the decision to make this book: working a night shift at a shelter for the homeless, encounters with homeless people in Rome and in London, and losing her own family home.

    On an impulse, Tamsen left her job one Friday and by dawn on the Monday morning, dressed in dreary grey sweatpants, clutching a posh camera, a cheap Argos audio recorder and several packets of fags, she was in central London. She began recording these chronicles and taking the photographs that accompany them. For two months, day and night, she sat on bleak, windswept pavements talking to the homeless and destitute - people who feel they are invisible.

    Tamsen currently lives in central Italy, where she writes a blog called Land of the Forgotten Earthquakes and campaigns for the government to help victims in the region. Ironically, the earthquakes have left her technically homeless.

  • I do go through the bins, I do pick up pizza off the floor … all that … it makes me feel horrible. I look around, like, ‘Is anyone watching me?’”

    Over the weeks I regularly ran into Jade, and she became important to me for the short time we had together. I developed great affection for this girl. An archaeologist could have taken a soft brush and gently dusted away the grime, the dirt and the pain to reveal the radiant young woman that lay beneath it all.

    Some evenings and nights, if I was just out with the camera and tripod - searching for pictures and not people - I would look for her and we’d sit together, usually outside Leicester Square tube station. It meant I could rest my legs and enjoy her company for an hour or so. She was engaging - a fighter, small, tough, scarred inside and out and so brave.  Her courage was only fractionally greater than the violence she lived with.

    On our first meeting, she wanted doughnuts to eat. Homeless people seem to have a sweet tooth. She ate with the unabashed gusto that small children have, and her words came fast and furious, mingled with little puffs of icing sugar.

    Jade had been homeless for most of the last eight years - a lifetime when you are only 23 years old. Before I turned on the recorder, I was asking general questions about her childhood and that was when I first heard her say she was ‘daddy’s little princess’.  She said it with her huge smile.

    Had I left it at that - walked away then - I would have thought what a shame things ended so badly for her, but at least she’d had a loving father.  And that would have been a huge, huge mistake.

    Read more...
  • 25th September 2018 Update #5

    Dearest All

    I think last time I wrote I was just about to get on a plane to London to see if I could make any noise about 'our' book which was then only days away from being born.

    Well, I did make a noise. And more importantly, I think the noise was actually heard.

           

    I did 5 radio interviews, one live interview on TV on London Live (now that was dedication to the cause, I tell you…

    21st August 2018 Update 4

    (I posted this last Sunday evening but it seems - weirdly - that t only just went out .... drat)

    I know, I know ... I've not written an Update to you all (well, officially, that is) in forever. 

    I sometimes feel that my life is a huge bowl of treacle and no matter how furiously I try and push forward in all the directions I should be going in, I never manage to feel I'm on top of all the things…

    11th August 2017 Update #3

    We have done it ...

    You all and I. We have made a book that will be on sale in shops. A real book. Real shops. People will buy it, read and people will change. For the better. They will love the stories.

    Most of you who backed this book, I have managed to track down and thank personally but there are one or two of you who eluded my detective skills - no clues as to who you are at all (but…

    20th April 2017 Update #2

    Thursday 20th April, 2017

    Well, I’ve been going at this crowd funding for about a month now. I thought the writing of the book was the hard part but I was so wrong!

    You – my Supporting Sixty – have been totally brilliant and we are now at 10%. I keep thinking that if I hadn’t taken so many (fab) photographs and was putting this book together as a 250pp paperback, we’d be at about 40% now…

    28th March 2017 #1 Update

    This is my immense thank you to my Top Drawer Twenty (you know who you are) ... seeing your names there, on the Pledge page, makes me really believe that this project will become a book. A proper, glorious book.

    It's what I have always wanted, since that very first day when I set off into London and spoke to Melissa - the first homeless person I ever sat with and listened to - and realised that homeless…

  • These people are helping to fund Four Feet Under.

    User avatar

    Barbara Joan Meier

    User avatar

    Rosina Andreou

    User avatar

    judith cooper

    User avatar

    Chris Bogle

    User avatar

    Mark Poston

    User avatar

    Diana Nowacka

    User avatar

    mike irwin

    User avatar

    Rich Dodgin

    User avatar

    Dianne Lawrence

    User avatar

    Erika Cule

    User avatar

    Gabriel Vogt

    User avatar

    Barbara Wiseman

    User avatar

    Caitlin Harvey

    User avatar

    Ninna Meier

    User avatar

    Hazel Alexander

    User avatar

    Celine Toh

    User avatar

    Dave Russell

    User avatar

    Catherine Stewart

    User avatar

    Ben Rowan

    User avatar

    Simone Irmscher

    User avatar

    Stu Lucy

    User avatar

    Adie Barker

    View more
  • Stephen Phelps
    Stephen Phelps asked:

    Can you let us see some photos of the characters you interviewed? I think a few faces might be a nice way to engage fresh suppporters

    Tamsen Courtenay
    Tamsen Courtenay replied:

    Absolutely ... In fact, it's weird you mentioning it as I was thinking that I wish people could see more of the magnificent faces I photographed. It's a way of somehow feeling 'closer', and that's what the book is all about ... I'll get on and sort that out. Thanks for your encouragement!

    Rebecca Greer
    Rebecca Greer asked:

    Are any homeless charities benefiting from this book if it gets to publication? [I have just pledged on the hardback].

    Tamsen Courtenay
    Tamsen Courtenay replied:

    I’m not too sure what you mean by benefiting? Do you mean are they getting any money from my book? The answer to that is no, they aren’t. If you mean do they know about the book, are behind the idea, and are glad that it ‘benefits’ the cause, as it were, then yes, they are! It’s always tricky if you write about a subject or a group of people to whom charities have allied themselves. I haven’t been asked your question before but it is a good one! I am now a writer. Nothing much more than that! It is a job. I don’t know if you read the bit called ‘About the Author’ but I used to work as an investigative journalist - issues that are sensitive, difficult or are about people who live on the margins of society, have always interested me, concerned me. I feel that the book is really about benefiting the homeless themselves rather than charities. As individuals, the homeless don’t often get a very public opportunity to express their thoughts and so on in depth. The book is a homage to them – they won me over and earned my respect and admiration. Others will feel the same, I am sure, when they read it. I decided to give up my job and actually go out and talk to them, listen to them and what they had to say. They themselves desperately want the public to know who they are and how they got where are they are. I was happy to do that job. And in a way it was a job ... It took nearly 12 months to transcribe the 70 hours of conversations, deal with 300+ photographs, write the book, re-write the book and so on, and cost me a fortune one way and another – but totally, totally worth it. It is enormously encouraging for me to discover that people like you – who I don’t even know – bother to care, bother to get involved in some way. Crowdfunding a book is hard work. It takes up virtually all my waking hours and can be soul-destroying but then, someone does pledge, and it all seems possible. The crowdfunding will end with the production of the First Edition (which you will get!) and that done, it triggers the production of the trade editions for the bookshops and Amazon through Penguin-Cornerstone. So, you have helped take a step towards that and a step towards making people think twice about walking past a homeless person, sitting there, Four Feet Under. Tam and thank you for supporting this book

    mat amp
    mat amp asked:

    Hi. I'm the deputy editor of the Pavement Magazine. It's free and is written and published for the homeless community in London, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Do you have twenty minutes for a quick interview for the magazine focusing on your experience producing the book. I prefer doing interviews face to face but I could do it by phone or email (my least favourite option especially for this sort of thing cuz I want to focus on your humanity.) Not that it matters but I got involved with the Pavement after I ended up homeless myself squats, sofa surfing, shooting galleries, night shelters, street homeless, assessment centre, hostel, assisted living - just about the whole cycle. Check out our website https://www.thepavement.org. Our pocket sized paper magazine is obviously the priority and also contains listings for services such as soup kitchens, night shelters, needle exchanges, where to get a shower, wash your clothes, eat for free etc. I'll put the word around about your book regardless but If you have time for an interview message me on london@thepavement.org.uk. I'm based in London. Mat Amp 07595602324

    Tamsen Courtenay
    Tamsen Courtenay replied:

    Sounds terrific, Mat ... I'm in London for a couple of days next week ... Where are you based? In any event, you can email me on: tamsen.courtenay@googlemail.com Let's deal with stuff via that ... But yes, for sure, it would be my pleasure to natter with you! T