Images of Poverty        

Poverty is a prominent theme in PhotoSensitive images and the elimination of poverty is an ideal of the collective. From the very first project, It's In Their Eyes, about homelessness in Toronto, through a variety of other projects, photographers have been able to capture many striking pictures of poverty, both at home and abroad. Here, we take a look at some of the stronger images on this theme.

Images of families in poverty

No family should be living under conditions where they are too poor to feed themselves properly. Yet, poverty remains an issue in Canada and other western nations, in spite of our affluence. Children going without food have more difficulty learning in school and face many other disadvantages from the start. Photosensitive believes in the ideal that children should never go hungry and that our entire society benefits if no family is too poor to feed its children.

The images in Child Poverty were intended to show the faces of real children living with the reality of not having enough to eat, not having proper clothing to wear and facing daily strife from not having enough money to live on. Child poverty, sadly, remains a national disgrace.

Taking pictures of people and displaying them as images in an exhibit on poverty was difficult for both the photographers and the subjects. Parents who allowed photographers to take pictures of their children showed exceptional strength in allowing their children to be used as subjects in this exhibit. Jonah's mother admits, "It's hard to live without. The kids always want food when there isn't any. I just want my kids to finish school and not miss anything." Image by Dick Loek.

In a stark image by Andrew Stawicki, two rural Ontario farm girls, Kaitlynn and Ellen, put a face on rural poverty in Canada. Their family of eight faces a daily challenge to put enough food on the table. Large families with not enough income are a fact of life in Canada's rural communities. Children from these families face hardship at home and develop low self esteem when they attend schools where more affluent children are better clothed and fed. Image by Andrew Stawicki.

Images of adults living in poverty

Photographer Dick Loek captured this dark image of a man warming his hands in a fire on the floor of an abandoned home in Toronto, in one of the more striking photos from It's in Their Eyes. Image by Dick Loek

Too poor to afford home or heat

Poverty among Canada's first nations

Lucas Oleniuk captured this picture of Jesse and Jacob making their own breakfast, for Child Poverty. Unfortunately, images of children on our first nations reserves figured prominently in this exhibit. The children's mother, Bonnie, is single. The family of three lives in a trailer on the Little Red River Cree Nation Reserve in the far north of Alberta.

Canada's aboriginal population has been a subject in several PhotoSensitive exhibits. The collective has not been shy in exposing the plight of Canada's first peoples, an important national issue. Images are not meant to judge in any way but they almost always show the great difference between life on the reserves versus life in any suburb or an average city neighbourhood. Poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide and other social issues related to our first nations are critical, specifically Canadian issues worthy of documentary photography.

While Summer of Hope was all about documenting how literacy camps benefit First Nations' children, images inevitably captured the poverty on reserves. Here, Craig Chivers catches small homes on dirt roads under a darkening sky, while children play happily in the foreground. Photo: Craig Chivers.

Poverty in Africa

The PhotoSensitive exhibits HIV Positive and AIDS: Picture Change focused on the ravages of Aids in Africa. However, a subtext of the photographs was inevitably the poverty in Rwanda, Zambia and other sub-Sahara African countries. Poverty is a sad part of why HIV and AIDS are so poorly treated in these countries. Photographers came home with stories of grandmothers taking care of 10 to 20 grandchildren, and families being unable to afford the smallest medical procedures. Some of the more startling images of poverty in Africa are as follows.

Changu Mwachingwala, an 80 year old grandmother who has seen too much trouble, shows one striking face of the hardship in Africa. She stands in a field of drought-ravaged corn, unsure if there will be any harvest of food for her 20 grandchildren. Image by Peter Bregg.

Many of the pictures in these exhibits capture heartbreaking images of life in third world countries. We urge you to view the galleries to gain a deeper understanding of life in these impoverished nations.

Below is one last image of poverty in Africa, captured by Bernard Weil in Zambia. Nurses wheel a patient on a path through the savannah for a visit to the local hospital. Nurses are often volunteers, as Zambia is too poor to properly support health care services.

View more images of the destitute, from In Their Eyes