In this new installment of our ongoing, independent multimedia series we combined the power of photography, video and music to drive home the point of citizen involvement. This quote was taken from an interview on the streets of Blantyre, Malawi in reference to sanitation and water projects but it could easily be a rallying cry for all the people around the world who yearn for control of their own destiny.
We’re often asked to shoot in tight chaotic situations where we have to mix in with the locals without getting in the way. The urban water points in Malawi are no exception, especially towards evening time when women and children are gathered to get their share water for cooking and cleaning. As the crowd parted to make room for this young girl working her way out of the front, I positioned myself below her with the wide-angle lens when she paused ever so slightly and looked down at me. One frame and then she was gone.
This is that unique opportunity that we would have never imagined when we’re sitting in meetings discussing shot lists and story lines weeks before we shoot the first frame. But it’s the type of image that as photographers working in both the still and motion worlds we’re constantly seeking and trained to find. It’s easy to go to these rural areas around the world and depict the poverty-it’s everywhere and relentless. What’s harder is to see through that and expose the dignity of the people you encounter and treat them with respect. When you do that, people respond the same way and allow you to make this type of image. This was a collaborative effort, she posed, we asked her to raise the fishing net, she smiled knowingly and it was a perfect moment that was never on any shot list.
According to a recent article published in Smithsonian magazine, pollutants from open-fire cookstoves are killing millions each year. In our travels around the globe working in both rural and urban environments, we’ve come across the ubiquitous indoor campfire more times than we can count. Without fail, it’s a woman or young girl stoking the flames of burning wood or charcoal which produces a thick cloud of smoke that gets trapped inside the dwelling which often lacks adequate ventilation. Groups such as the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves are working on the solution in cooperation with manufacturers and distributors so that an affordable technology can replace the open fire that’s used by nearly 3 billion people worldwide.
Traveling in India is often a combination of land and water transportation that can range from a human-powered vehicle to the ubiquitous ferry-boat that’s loaded with people. On this day, just like everyday we searched for stories on Sagar Island, there was this gentleman selling his hats and bags to all the travellers departing to the mainland and arriving on the island.
According to UNICEF, malnutrition is more common in India than in Sub-Saharan Africa. One in every three malnourished children in the world lives in India. Malnutrition limits development and the capacity to learn. It also costs lives: about 50 per cent of all childhood deaths are attributed to malnutrition. In India, around 46 per cent of all children below the age of three are too small for their age, 47 per cent are underweight and at least 16 per cent are wasted. Many of these children are severely malnourished.
When we were in India last fall working with Water For People we spent our days meeting, photographing and filming people of all ages including young children like the girl in this photo. What struck me then and still does every time I travel to India, is the health of the people we meet where they have access to the basic necessities of life such as water, food, shelter and education. In the areas where even one of those is missing you can see the difference. When you look at this little girl you’ll see a world of possibilities waiting for her, provided all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.
We created these videos with Water For People to help them convey the burden of water poverty around the world. When put into context it’s staggering how much effort it takes to source something that is so readily available to many of us. Imagine what these hours could create!
Just like anywhere else in the world, entrepreneurs in India look for locations where people will naturally congregate in order to sell their products and services. In this case a husband and wife team feed locals flocking to the community water point in the evening after work.
In the North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, India there’s a system for water collection that relies on a contractor whose sole purpose is to shuttle water jugs from households to the community water pump by using a bicycle. This is a great example of an entrepreneur tapping into a new market, making money and freeing up people’s time to do other things besides sourcing water.