A Portrait of Poverty . . .

Ivan Muller

EOS RP
Oct 25, 2011
357
11

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expatinasia

EOS 5D Mark IV
Aug 18, 2011
1,720
12
Asia Pacific
I have travelled (and lived) extensively in some of the poorest countries in the world, and I often find that the poorest people sometimes live the richest lives.

And the most sincere, and heart warming smile I have ever seen came from those areas too.

Often makes me wonder whether we have the understanding of poverty all wrong....
 

sunseeker

I'm New Here
Nov 28, 2012
10
0
Great shots, where you focus on the subject instead of pixel-peeping. Really "alive" images.

One question:
How do you cope with the poverty and the situation, during your photography? In other words: you just pop in and say "hello, I just take a few pictures of you, can you sit here and watch the camera please?".
I think that it would sound quite awkward.
You do a good job, reporting these situations. But I would feel unconfortable. I would be afraid that people would answer me "leave me alone", and I would feel bad, with my high-tech camera in this dramatic situations.
Can you share your point of view, and approach?

Thank you for your post, made me reflect.
 

Ivan Muller

EOS RP
Oct 25, 2011
357
11
sunseeker said:
Great shots, where you focus on the subject instead of pixel-peeping. Really "alive" images.

One question:
How do you cope with the poverty and the situation, during your photography? In other words: you just pop in and say "hello, I just take a few pictures of you, can you sit here and watch the camera please?".
I think that it would sound quite awkward.
You do a good job, reporting these situations. But I would feel unconfortable. I would be afraid that people would answer me "leave me alone", and I would feel bad, with my high-tech camera in this dramatic situations.
Can you share your point of view, and approach?

Thank you for your post, made me reflect.

Thanks all for looking and taking the time to reply!

You know even if we are poor we have a desire to talk and communicate with other people...Poor people are actually a lot more 'open' to strangers than rich folks...how do you get behind the high walls and security? So I just walk around strike up a conversation or just ask, do you mind if I take your photo? If they are reluctant then I show them on the camera screen some of the images that I have just done, or maybe keep a little book with some of my images. I usually promise to bring them some images later free of charge, and make sure I keep my promise. That usually opens more doors because they are starting to trust you...Sometimes I 'bribe' them with a packet of chips which I will usually give anyway whether they allowed me to photograph or not...so its usually just a case of being friendly, a little bit persistent, having a chat with them and treat them like you would any other, listen and sympathize... but always ask permission, and treat them gently...I really try not to show them in a bad light, because of their situation they don't know the 'power' an image has...we know and that's why we are often reluctant or pose or first check the hair etc ...what you see then is a projection of an image ...poor people usually don't have that, they are more honest and just don't have the means nor the inclination to change their appearance. By getting to know them you can even perhaps start to help them via donations, food a chat here and there, ...and just remember the old saying, 'there goes I but for the grace of God'...
 

Ivan Muller

EOS RP
Oct 25, 2011
357
11
Yes, these guys are actually relatively ok. They have very little money, but a tin roof over their heads, food and good sanitation, and function well as a community with regular donations from well wishers...everything is relative I suppose but it is still sad to see no matter how much worse or better off each one is...somehow the world has gone wrong and looking at trends now it seems as if entrenched lifestyles and communities are on the brink of permanent collapse
 

J.R.

EOS 5D Mark IV
Jan 13, 2013
1,749
0
bycostello said:
sad thing is.. i'm living in china right now and some of the things i've seen make them look wealthy!

+1 ... I fully agree with you because it's the same across the Himalayas, in India! :(
 

Zen

EOS 90D
Sep 23, 2012
114
3
Buffalo, NY USA
Hi Ivan,

The b&w's are much more powerful for this subject. They depict the people in a stark, cold atmosphere that photographically replicates what the subject people actually experience.

Regarding how you greet and interact with those you want to shoot . . . Milton Rogovin, now deceased, became a nationally known photographer whose images of poverty are now in the Library of Congress. He lived and worked here in Buffalo, NY, and I had a passing acquaintance with him and his wife. He did the same thing with his subjects that you suggest. Show them the images, give them prints and treat them gently, but as ordinary people. Do not look down on them or give them any reason to believe that you do. Rogovin did 2 ten year projects shooting 3-4 dozen people each time, then going back ten years later to shoot the same folks, then again another ten years later. He shot the parents and their kids, their kids' weddings and their kids; their tiny shabby homes, with broken windows, their torn and wrinkled clothes and the streets where they spent their time. He told the story of poverty with his camera far better than the written word could ever do. His images were . . . are memorable.

From that series, he produced a book that he updated each time he shot another series. He gave copies to his subjects. They knew him, greeted him when he walked down the street, welcomed him into their homes, etc., etc.

So from watching him work, I know it can be done successfully and gracefully. But it is a unique skill; that is the ability to relate easily with folks who have so little, so much less than you. Rogovin never offered his subjects money to pose for him. He was, instead, their friend. I have high admiration for Rogovin and for anyone else who can relate so intimately with a group of people who have so little and must live so difficult a life.

Congrats to you for taking on such a series, and good luck to you.

Zen
 
Aug 6, 2012
1,464
0
www.flickr.com
To OP, if you really want to get a picture of poverty, I suggest that you go to the slums in Philippines. I'm familiar with it and for a long time, I want to take picture of it but the danger of losing your gadgets there would be very high. Your pictures would look rich compared to what you'll be able to get there.
 

Ivan Muller

EOS RP
Oct 25, 2011
357
11
Jason, I can only photograph what I encounter and see on my travels. This means mostly what I encounter here in South Africa which has some of the worst poverty and crime anywhere. These images are not supposed to be images of 'the worst poverty in the world'..these are just images of elderly people experiencing poverty and that probably had seen much better times before. I actually think they are rather well off re the local scene and I am sure there are much worse case scenarios around here and around the globe...Winterveld is notorious for its squalor and poverty...so this is not a contest, just reality as I encountered it...

btw I have been mugged at knife point twice already and all my equipment stolen..its not something I care to experience for a 3rd time and so I take great care of my personal safety...no image imo is worth dying for, so yes I don't go into areas I would consider too dangerous...and so these images were made in a relatively safe environment...
 

Rienzphotoz

Peace unto all ye Canon, Nikon & Sony shooters
Aug 22, 2012
3,303
0
expatinasia said:
I have travelled (and lived) extensively in some of the poorest countries in the world, and I often find that the poorest people sometimes live the richest lives.

And the most sincere, and heart warming smile I have ever seen came from those areas too.

Often makes me wonder whether we have the understanding of poverty all wrong....
+1
But the images posted here do not depict poverty
 

rpt

EOS R6
Mar 7, 2012
2,767
14
India
expatinasia said:
I have travelled (and lived) extensively in some of the poorest countries in the world, and I often find that the poorest people sometimes live the richest lives.

And the most sincere, and heart warming smile I have ever seen came from those areas too.

Often makes me wonder whether we have the understanding of poverty all wrong....
+1000

So true! There are kinds and kinds of poverty.
 

Northstar

EOS 5D Mark IV
Mar 31, 2012
1,673
0
106
US - Midwest
btw I have been mugged at knife point twice already and all my equipment stolen..its not something I care to experience for a 3rd time and so I take great care of my personal safety...no image imo is worth dying for, so yes I don't go into areas I would consider too dangerous...and so these images were made in a relatively safe environment...

Good reason to have a 50 1.8 on an older camera body for walk around gear, and for photography in places more prone to crime
 

Northstar

EOS 5D Mark IV
Mar 31, 2012
1,673
0
106
US - Midwest
Ivan Muller said:
...or comprehensive insurance!


I just left my bag with a 1dx and 70-200 at the hockey arena where I was shooting....Realized what i had done when i got home. Drove right back and there it was, still sitting on a bench where I left it.

It must have sat there unattended for an hour with all kinds of people around.....lucky.
 
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