Photographers' Blog

Living the Peruvian dream

Gosen City, Lima, Peru
By Mariana Bazo

Life in the settlements on the outskirts of Lima can be very hard, but years of economic growth in Peru have helped benefit even some of its poorest residents. In one shantytown called Gosen City, a cluster of houses that grew up haphazardly around a garbage dump, this change is really starting to show.

Peru has experienced a decade-long boom, and although growth slowed somewhat last year, changes and development continue. The government has pledged to dramatically cut poverty rates, and while it still has a long way to go, around 490,000 Peruvians were raised out of poverty last year, according to official statistics.

I decided to go to Gosen City, which stands high on a hill above the capital, precisely because on previous visits I found it to be a place of extreme destitution. This time, however, I interviewed a group of people who in some ways have seen their lives improve in recent years.

Carpenter Antonio Abad poses in his workshop in Gosen City, a slum that began years ago as an informal settlement in the Villa Maria del Triunfo municipality  on the outskirts of Lima,  March 18, 2014. Abad arrived in Gosen City in 1995, when it was just a settlement, and began helping neighbors build their homes and now has a factory that makes windows, doors, and furniture. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

Neighborhood leader Honorata Huaman makes a living selling cakes, but rather than wanting to get rich she does it to help schoolchildren in the area. I asked her why and she explained that as a child she had nothing, but then good people helped her to improve her situation and now she wants to do the same for others.

Honorata Huaman poses with cakes and soy juice she sells in Gosen City, a slum that began years ago as an informal settlement in the Villa Maria del Triunfo municipality  on the outskirts of Lima,  April 10, 2014. Huaman makes a living selling cakes, and uses most of her profits to help needy schoolchildren in the neighborhood. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

She has had a hard life. When she was just 9 years old and living in the highland town of Ayacucho, her mother sold her for a sack of rice and another of barley and she was brought to Lima. Later, she had to free herself from an abusive husband, with whom she has four children, and she also had cancer.

Chicago’s doctor to the homeless

Chicago, Illinois

By Jim Young


“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” —Dalai Lama

“What size boots do you wear?” Dr. Patrick Angelo asks a homeless man as he looks down at his worn sneakers. “Here, take my boots, I will give you mine,” and proceeds to give him the boots off his feet, right then and there, in 5 degree Fahrenheit weather to a complete stranger under an overpass in downtown Chicago.

Angelo is an oral surgeon by day in the Chicago area, and drives into the city several nights a week to help the homeless. A successful physician with a house in the suburbs and children of his own, he says it came to him like a flash that he could do this and make a difference. So he packed up, though not sure where to go and what to do, and off he went. That was 13 years ago, and he has been doing it ever since.

Inside the connected food bank web

Manchester, New Hampshire

By Brian Snyder

It’s all connected. The New Hampshire Food Bank serves food to people who need meals. The people getting the meals need job and life skills to get to the point that they don’t need meals assistance. Someone needs to make the meals. Enter the culinary job training program at the Food Bank. In addition to learning kitchen skills, the students produce meals for three of the agencies of the New Hampshire Food Bank. In 2012, the kitchen produced a staggering 97,823 meals.

For course teacher and chef Jayson McCarter, whose credentials include cooking at the White House under two different administrations, it’s about giving chances and opening doors. Along with an assistant chef and other staff, he has done that for over 250 people who have come through the program since it started in May 2008.

It’s all connected. Take apples as an example. The program received a huge bin of apples — 735 pounds, equaling about 625 pounds after coring by the students (a lot of chances to practice their newly learned knife skills, essential in any kitchen job). Add about 55 pounds of water, honey and cinnamon to get to 680 pounds, or 75 gallons, of cooked applesauce which is about 2400 half cup servings of applesauce for next year’s summer feeding program.

Living with “werewolf syndrome”

Dolkha District, Nepal

By Navesh Chitrakar

People have always had a certain fascination with the unknown – a fascination that has been experienced by Devi Budhathoki and three of her children, who all suffer from a rare genetic condition that causes large amounts of thick hair to grow on their bodies.

There is no medical solution available for Devi’s condition, which is known as Congenital Hypertrichosis Lanuginosa, but its symptoms can be reduced by laser hair removal. Dermatologist Dr. Dharmendra Karn has been giving this treatment to 38-year-old Devi, along with her two daughters Manjura, who is 14, Mandira, who is 7, and her son Niraj, who is 12. Dr Karn’s care has helped the family, but they need multiple sessions for it to be effective and even after finishing a course of hair removal, they need to keep returning because the hair grows back again.

The Dhulikhel hospital has been treating Devi and her children for free since its management heard from locals, the media and social workers that Devi came from a poor family. Devi is married to Nara Bahadur Budhathoki and for 23 years they have been living in their home that has one kitchen, a shared bedroom and no lavatory. The house sits on a hill in Kharay, some 190km (118 miles) from Nepal’s capital Kathmandu.

Home is where the Beetle is

Monterrey, Mexico

By Daniel Becerril

The need to find a place and make it your own is sometimes the only way to cope in a life full of surprises, hardship, sorrow and joy. It’s unbelievable how humans are capable of accommodating themselves in any space and under any circumstances.

I first heard of Oscar Almaguer, or Don Oscar, on a local TV program. It was the story of an 83-year-old man who had been living in a battered VW Beetle for the last 10 years. Don Oscar’s story was the perfect one to show life’s full range of social complexities and I thought it would definitively make an interesting picture story.

In these times of economic hardship it’s not that uncommon for people to live in their cars after falling on hard times but Don Oscar’s story is a little bit different. He and his wife got divorced 10 years ago and sold everything in order to split it in equal parts. Instead of leaving Don Oscar with half, she disappeared with everything, or almost everything. What she did leave him was their 1967 VW Beetle, known here by the Mexican nickname “Vocho.”

Documenting the wealth gap in China

Beijing, China

By Kim Kyung-hoon

Showing the great contrast between China’s rich and poor in photos should be simple. After all, both exist just a few blocks away from each other or sometimes in the same place in any city. A poor family rides a rusty tricycle as a shiny Ferrari passes by. Just around the corner from an expensive restaurant, poor migrant workers eat cheap meals and take naps on the street.

But trying to get people to agree to be photographed was much more difficult than I expected. In six months of roaming around Beijing, visiting places where the rich congregate, such as luxury brand fashion boutiques and cocktail parties at fashion shows and even a luxury car maker’s promotional event, I tried all sorts of things, hoping that someone would open up their lifestyle to my lens.

But no rich person welcomed me and my camera. No one invited me to record this growing reality in China. Perhaps some were afraid that news of their wealthy lifestyle might go viral. Rich Chinese have reason to be shy of the cameras and interviews. The country’s new leader, Xi Jinping, has told people to cut out displays of ostentation. Moreover, the spending habits of wealthy Chinese have often sparked the ire of China’s microbloggers.

Dignity Wage

Brasilia, Brazil

By Ueslei Marcelino

I phoned Sueli yesterday to give her the good news.

“Mrs. Sueli. The government just announced that it will increase the minimum wage in January!”

With the same lively voice she spoke with when I visited her a few days earlier, she responded, “Child, that’s a great thing. Maybe there will be a little extra money now to buy some meat?”

According to her ID card, Sueli Paes Alecrin is 48 years old, but her eyes reveal that she is older, much older. She is a single mother to her sons Alessandro, 16, and Alex, 15, and her daughter Amanda, 11. Amanda was born with cerebral palsy.

Rich and poor in the Philippines

Manila, Philippines

By Erik De Castro

Taking photos of poor people is nothing unusual for me, as the poor comprise more than a fourth of the Philippine population of nearly 97 million. They are also the most vulnerable during disasters such as typhoons, landslides and fires that frequently dominate the headlines in the country.

Late last month, the Secretary General of the state agency National Statistical Coordination Board wrote in an article that the gap between the country’s rich and poor is widening, with the country’s strong growth, the fastest in Asia so far this year, benefiting high-income earners more than those from the middle- and low-income classes. The article said the rich were enjoying significantly faster growth in incomes compared with people from lower income classes.

That helped me build the idea to juxtapose the lifestyles of the rich and poor in the country through images. I thought in the beginning that it was easy to document the rich and poor divide, but I found out as I was doing my picture story that it was a complex matter. I spent more than three weeks doing a picture story concentrating on two families with similar age brackets but from different income classes. I followed each of the two families as they went about doing their daily activities, spending lots of time with them even during ungodly hours of the day.

Turning trash into dreams

Asuncion, Paraguay

By Jorge Adorno

Throughout my life I have always been struck by how music, as a part of culture, is a white flag in many circumstances of life, especially in times of conflict. Even the Germans found time to attend concerts during war.

The other day I went to the education center in the Asuncion neighborhood of Cateura called Vy’a Renda, meaning Place of Joy in the Guaraní language, where I found youths building their future in a place of extreme poverty. It’s a school with curtains drawn over broken windows, but which houses diamonds in the rough in the form of children studying music and playing in an orchestra. Their instruments are built of material recycled from trash, giving the orchestra its name, the Orchestra of Recycled Instruments of Cateura.

The orchestra’s director, Favio Chavez, was an amateur musician apart from being an environmental engineer at the Cateura municipal garbage dump. In 2006 he decided to help the children of the dozens of garbage pickers by forming a music school with the five instruments he managed to acquire.

Surviving as a garment worker

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

By Damir Sagolj

Like a true professional, Maen Sopeak sings to the audience of seven people who sit on the bare floor of her room in a Phnom Penh suburb. Her singing is soft, at moments almost a whisper, but her beautiful voice is clear. In a country even slightly richer than devastated, impoverished Cambodia, she could be a star. She could perform to packed halls, wearing only the best clothes.

Maen Sopeak is, however, just a poor garment worker. There will be no sell-out crowds or fancy dresses for her anytime soon. She shares a single, hole-in-the-wall room with six other women, who all work at a nearby garment factory producing clothes for Western brands.

The song is excruciatingly sad. It tells the story of a girl forced into marriage with an older man, not the one she loves. Maen makes the grim song sound somehow joyful, although suicidal thoughts would be more appropriate. The abject conditions where she lives and works are a natural setting for this tragic ballad. Here, misery invites yet more misery. Just like in my home country of Bosnia, another devastated post-genocide country where its sevdah music is just a natural extension of everyday hardship.