Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Dignity in photos

Cochabamba, Bolivia -- November 2012
From my Bolivia files:
I started this post in November 2012 after I returned from Bolivia but got sidetracked. I think this is a good time to finally finish the post. :)

I learned an important lesson about photographs while in Bolivia seven months ago through Compassion International: when taking pictures, show children in poverty at their best instead of at their worst.

It seems like a common sense concept. But that's not what often happens when you see television commercials imploring viewers to help needy children in developing countries...or when I've written stories in an effort to draw attention to the plight of others.

Don't get me wrong. There is a place for heart-wrenching photos. But I think those of us in first-world countries often forget about the humanity of those in developing countries because we are so bombarded with photos or commercials of children and families with bloated bellies and flies in their eyes. We don't see their story. We don't see their dreams.

During my time in Bolivia, I received the gift of entering the lives and homes of poor children and families. What stood out to me was not the fact that they were surviving on a few dollars a day or that some were living in squalid conditions. I saw something you and I often don't take the time to recognize: hope. The hope of parents who desired a good life for their children. The hope of children who dreamed of becoming doctors, farmers, teachers, students, moms and dads.

"We market hope," said Greg, one of our trip's team leaders.

As a parent, how would you want people to view your child? Most would want people to see their children at their best not at their worst. Compassion takes that approach when it comes to photographing children and families.

"We want to preserve their dignity in photos," Greg said.

This mindset is one of the reasons I love and appreciate Compassion. It is changing the way I tell stories, too. After all, virtually all stories have at least two sides, right? I want eyes to always see -- and the courage to tell -- both sides of a story.

This got me thinking of pictures I've taken of children during my travels around the U.S. and the world. Here are a few of my favorites of children doing what they do best: being children.

Ogbomosho, Nigeria -- September 2008

Nairobi, Kenya -- July 2008
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia -- July 2008

Kansas City, Mo., March 2013


  1. These pictures are great! I hadn't thought so much about showing the children at their best/worst. I would want the world to see my children in the best light, and, unless conditions were deplorable, why wouldn't others do the same? Thanks for the gentle reminder, Lola. Such beautiful children! --Elaine

  2. This had never occurred to me before, but it makes perfect sense!

    1. Thanks for reading, Anna, and for stopping by.