(*This article is translated from Spanish and originally appeared on the Redes de Solidaridad blog on 5 April)
In Barrio Nueva Vida, the poverty is extreme. There is no doubt about that. In addition to this, the barrio is known as a place with various social issues.
As a result of this, different NGOs are present in the community, accompanying the people, walking with them and helping them to build a better future.
There are many ways in which one can help in this important work.
In Redes de Solidaridad (Solidarity Network), for example, volunteers come from lots of different countries. At the moment, the volunteers are Spanish, Italian and Australian.
I’m one of those volunteers, and my mission is in the area of communication. Through photography and videography, I am working with the people of the barrio to project and show a little of the reality of Nueva Vida, and also raise the consciousness of the problems, and the joys of this place.
I learned about the work of Redes through this blog, from my office desk in Canberra, Australia.
An image is worth more than a thousand words, and for me, through the information shared on the blog and the photos of the people, I decided to write to Enrique, the Director of Redes, and ask for the opportunity to do some volunteer work in the barrio.
It it wasn’t for these communications, I wouldn’t have found this place, and its issues, challenges and hopes would always have been hidden from my eyes.
Seeing poverty for the first time can hit hard for those of us who have always had everything we need to survive. Photos of poverty can make us feel quite uncomfortable.
And so they should, right?
Therefore, after lots of reflection, this is my response to those who might challenge the photography of poverty:
If I don’t speak for those without a voice, who will speak for them?
Those of us from the so-called “first world”, from Italy, Spain and Australia should feel a little uncomfortable, because we live with everything, while others have nothing. This however is a discomfort that should capacitate us to join in the struggle through whatever means we have.
We shouldn’t become paralysed by guilt or frustration, but rather, each do something. For me, that mission, for the moment is communication and education.
I’m always very scrupulous about the photos I take, and when I share them, I always try to put them in the correct context.
I ask permission when I am taking photos of people, and I try, as much as possible to share those photos for the greater glory of God (As St Ignatius of Loyola said).
But, we need to be prepared too for the fact that God sometimes makes us feel uncomfortable in what we see.
One needs to be responsible in what she shares too.
The dignity of the human person is the primary objective, and we need to be quite careful to not exploit photos we have taken for our own interests.
I have finally taken a decision, and I’d be interested to hear what you think.
If I can inspire ONE person, or touch someone’s heart with one photo of a child without enough food to eat, then this is almost as important as giving that child a meal.
Giving light to their struggle through a camera lens, often, we can open hearts to others, and improve the situation for all.