Exploring Different Perspectives of Poverty Through Photography
by Duncan McNicholl
Many people only experience sub-Saharan Africa through photographs. The teary-eyed child in rags is familiar to all of us as the portrait of poverty charities use to communicate a hopelessness in need of our pity and charity. I reacted very strongly to these images when I returned from Africa in 2008 after a 4 month volunteer placement in Malawi, working with Engineers Without Borders Canada. I compared the images I saw to my Malawian friends – people who embodied intelligence, resilience, and compassion – and I felt lied to.
It seemed that these photos presented by development organizations and the media were deliberately providing only one perspective of rural Africans like my friends in Malawi, which was despair.
.....This photo project, which I am dubbing ‘Perspectives of Poverty’, is not to say that people do not suffer in Africa. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, and we must not lose sight of the fact that millions struggle to get by. But how we interpret the lives of others is critically important since it affects how we support those struggling to overcome poverty.....
The opposite is true of microfinance. As a community it projects only the face of success, making light of the difficulty and struggle of entrepreneurship and a landscape littered with failure.