LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas – Heifer International and renowned photographer Rankin joined forces this summer to raise awareness of global poverty by holding a Heifer International Photo Contest for aspiring photographers around the world. Their challenge was to interpret the meaning of hunger through the lens of a camera.
Heifer International, founded in 1944 by Dan West, aims to end hunger and poverty around the world while protecting the environment. Their primary means of doing so is providing livestock and eco-friendly agricultural training to struggling families. They ensure that their work reaches the maximum number of people by requiring that the first female offspring of every donated animal be given to another struggling family. This helps to empower the local communities to become more self-sufficient while providing both food and reliable income to those who are struggling to meet basic needs.
Rankin, today a well-known and well-respected photographer, was thrown into the spotlight when he cofounded the seminal magazine Dazed & Confused in 1992. Since then, he has worked on innumerable editorial and marketing campaigns with some of the world’s biggest and most recognizable brands. That which unites his enormous portfolio is his endeavor in all of his work to question and subvert social norms. After forays in writing, film production, and more, Rankin returned to his magazine roots in 2011 when he created The Hunger, a ‘fashion, culture and lifestyle magazine’.
The competition was met by an incredible response and spawned some truly breathtaking photographs. Some depict hunger in its most literal forms, showing starving children and barren landscapes; others take a more figurative or abstract approach. Many utilize models and show interpretations of hunger, while still others depict those who have suffered firsthand.
The winner of the competition, whose photograph was featured in Hunger Magazine and in the Fahey-Klein Gallery in Los Angeles, was photographer Daylon Soh. The picture is most striking in its simplicity: an old man is hunched over in a plastic chair, sleeping against a white backdrop, while his possessions – perhaps everything he owns in the world – sit in a bag next to him. Adding to the photograph’s authenticity is the fact that it was not staged. Soh happened upon the man while taking photos for another assignment at a market and was struck by the powerful image.
The picture is particularly ironic, Soh believes, because of its juxtaposition. The environment is clean, the location a capitalist hub within a wealthy city, yet here sits a man exhibiting signs of malnutrition, such as lumps on his feet and clearly visible shoulder bones.
Soh views his photograph as an important reminder of the prevalence of hunger and poverty. “Sometimes,” he says, “because we live in relative comfort in our city, we tend to forget that there are still homeless and poor people who get left behind. People often overlook the fact that the fight to end poverty and hunger begins from home. Hunger is relative to ignorance.”
– Rebecca Beyer