How many times have you seen a picture of a rural African farmer dressed in his Sunday best? Probably not very many.
In an ongoing project called Perspectives of Poverty, Canadian Duncan McNicholl is taking photos of people he meets while working on water and sanitation projects in Malawi to illustrate how photographs can be manipulated to convey different messages.
His latest model is a young girl named Gertrude, who's maybe five or six years old . The mood of the first photo is dreary. Gertrude is looking up at the camera with big, sad eyes and a despondent expression. Her yellow dress is slipping off her small shoulders. Little bits of cereal are stuck to her hand and lips, and she seems to be caught in the act of eating.
In contrast, the second photo is sunny and well lit. Gertrude is hamming it up for the camera with a big grin and mischievous eyes. She’s wearing the same yellow dress, but this time it doesn’t look shabby. A thatched hut in the background is the only clue that this girl lives in poverty. You certainly wouldn’t be able to tell from her smile.
McNicholl started the project because he didn't think the "poverty" photos used by some charities accurately reflected the lives of the friends he had made in Malawi, he explains in his blog.
I thought that these images were robbing people of their dignity, and I felt that the rest of the story should be told as well … I want to bring to light some of the different assumptions we make about a person, especially when we see an image of “poverty” from rural Africa.