Perspectives of Poverty

Rich Edward KabzelaIn 2008, Duncan McNicholl did a fellowship in Malawi. Upon returning home, he reacted strongly to photos of organizations that depicted a rather distorted version of people living in rural Africa. In 2010, he returned to Malawi to work with the Water and Sanitation team and came up with an idea for a photography project called Perspectives of Poverty with the goal of showing the people of rural Africa in a different light.

By taking two different photos of the same person, one as the symbol of poverty and the other at their finest, McNicholl wanted to change the way we perceived the people who lived in rural Africa. Organizations, in pursuit of funding, tend to depict those living in these areas as the typical symbol of poverty, “a teary-eyed African child, dressed in rags, smothered in flies, with a look of desperation.” Having had firsthand experience living in these regions, McNichol “felt lied to” finding these photos incomplete, inaccurate and outrageous.

“How had these photos failed so spectacularly to capture the intelligence, the laughter, the resilience and the capabilities of so many incredible people?” he writes.

Pictured above is Edward Kabzela, an area borehole maintenance mechanic of the Chagunda Village in Malawi. Besides being an area mechanic, Kabezla also takes part in other business ventures such as growing tobacco and owning a basket weaving business. McNicholl writes that Kabzela is “a great example of how little a thatched roof says about someone’s livelihood.” Upon hearing about how some photos portrayed his village of Chagunda, he commented that when NGOs come they take pictures of “only people who are dressed poorly.”

McNicholl is unsure of what Perspectives of Poverty will look like when it is done and will continue taking photos like these to possibly put on exhibit.

– Rafael Panlilio
Source: Water Wellness