Panos Pictures – Eight Ways to Change the World

I write here about the different conceptual and visual styles shown in the photographs by Chris de Bode and Adam Hinton

Chris de Bode – Ethiopia

In his photographs from Ethiopia Chris de Bode’s shows children along with comments from them about their future dreams. In many of the images he depicts the children as if playing at the career they would see themselves following when they grow up. By showing them wanting occupations that are not dissimilar to those that Western children could easily also choose he provides a link to our own lives and desires. We see that they are no different to our own children, or indeed to us when we were at that age. However the props – quite possible the childrens’ own toys – are very much home-made from whatever they can find. There are no expensive toys here, just items constructed from otherwise discarded bits of wood. This helps to differentiate their lives and environments from ours; we become aware of how much harder their dreams will be to realise than would be the case for first world children.

De Bode’s images are mostly quite dark, with muted colours. Skin tones match the background so that the subjects are shown as very much part of their environment. In some he places his subject against an open background, with the scale of the surrounding landscape making them seem even smaller. This again helps to highlight the difficulties these children will have in realising their dreams. By concentrating solely on the children his images emphasise a desire for escape, to forge a better life than that of their own parents.

Adam Hinton – Guatemala

Adam Hinton’s photographs feature maternal groupings; there are no men in any of these images. Although the supporting text speaks about their wish for better education for the children, the images themselves very much emphasise close families, and unlike Chris de Bode there is no sense of desire to escape; their homes may be extremely primitive by western standards but there is a definite sense of pride in their expressions.  The supporting text speaks of the lack of gender parity in education in Guatemala, and by excluding men from the photographs Hinton emphasises the resilience of these women in the face of adversity.

The women are often seen smiling, with a naturalness that suggests this is a normal condition, not one put on for the camera. He shows their homes and lands but their bright clothes and obvious sense of self help to show their self-reliance. Hands feature quite often as well, seeming to symbolise both their own capabilities and willingness to support each other.

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