By David Hoffmann, on 18 August 2014
Like many students in the Development Planning Unit, I realized that this year’s field trip would be a great opportunity to take pictures. However, I felt I wanted to do more than just going on a solitary mission to capture whatever crossed my path. I decided to launch a project that pushes the photographer to reflect during the process of taking pictures and that gives coherence in the way work is seized and presented.
The final concept took shape as I spoke about my intentions to fellow students. We decided to create a photo-blog with a collection of pictures taken by students in Peru, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania where we would be conducting research as part of our respective MSc programs. As a collective we then agreed on 9 different photographic themes that would work as our creative lens. The final blog works as a mosaic of moments and motives that will hopefully capture the viewers’ attention. The project is entirely voluntary and student run, and all pictures were taken between April and May 2014.
We believe that the appeal of the project resides in the diversity of photographic styles of students, the varying interpretations of the selected topics and the diverse locations and experiences that DPU students were exposed to. We hope that it is conducive of real insight into people’s work and day-to-day experiences, allowing viewers to emotionally engage with different realities as depicted in the pictures and giving food for thought.
For us photographers, the project was a great opportunity to use our skills with a concrete purpose in mind, and also resulted in the creation of a temporary platform to experiment and explore the potential of photography. The project was a challenge, yet it allowed us to make the most of the experience and we are now happy to be able to share our vision with fellow students, alumni and curious minds alike.
The selection of pictures below has a photojournalistic quality to them and triggers reflection, as they seized some of the tensions that we witnessed in the field. There is a story behind each picture, as told by the photographers.
‘This picture was taken from the third floor of the hotel in which we stayed during our work as UDP students in Dar es Salaam. With this panorama surrounding us, it was not necessary going to slums to have a taste of how inequality expresses itself in urban contexts. It was actually not completely comfortable (in ethical terms) to swim there after a day of work with the communities, where people were completely open to talk with us about their inaccessibility to certain environmental goods, like potable water. In my opinion, the fieldtrip to Tanzania was helpful for getting or strengthening that ethical fiber that any development professional should have.’ – Jorge Ortiz
‘Lima’s rapid urbanisation, fragmented planning and conflictual land issues have led the city to expand beyond its territorial boundaries. An increasing amount of the population is now occupying the slopes of the Andes Mountains surrounding Lima, where exposure to disasters is considerable, and upon which mobility is particularly limited. This picture has been taken in Jose Carlos Mariátegui, Lima’s largest and poorest municipal district. When approached, people living in the area state: ‘we live in the air’. Beyond a simple reference to the high altitude in which the informal settlement is located, it also metaphorically reflects on the marginalising impact of Lima’s development plans on a vulnerable segment of the population.’ – Loan Diep
‘The picture represents a little girl standing in front of her house and simply eating some dried berries… a simple act. The grid behind her is a sort of a fence constructed by the family in order to protect their house. The family has appropriated several materials in order to build their “home”: bamboo, wood, corrugated metal sheet… as part of an informal settlement, the issue of privacy is always critical, one can easily break this tessellated surface, pass his hand through it or look behind it so what did it serve other than delimiting a space?’ – Joana Dabaj
‘Some people say that Black and White photography is good at capturing the soul of an image. As it is, colours tend to distract the viewer from shapes, textures and raw emotions that it might contain. There is little soul left in this ill horse, however… it was abandoned in the middle of the city by its owner, where it is more likely to be run over by an inattentive driver than being saved by a caring soul. The skeleton of a building in the backdrop completes the picture, and reminds us of the fragility of the urban environment, where hope and despair cohabite.’ – David Hoffmann
‘An image out of focus: shot just with a stretch of the arm outside the window. A need to get some fresh air while spending 3 ½ hours inside an air-conditioned mini-bus was the reason for a split opening of my side window. The view at that point: vehicles stuck in traffic lines due to flooding on the streets of Dar es Salaam. During rush hour and when the tropic clouds pour the city with rain the transportation system paralyzes. Commuting in the city of Dar is always an adventure: dala-dala buses, private taxis, public transportation, whichever the vehicle the ride is going to be probably a frustrating experience. And even though infrastructure improvements are planned and already under construction, with the BRT system being at the center of attention, it seems that the advertisement’s quote in the background “DREAM, FLY, SAVE” is the ‘only’ solution!’ – Asimina Paraskevopoulou