The Poverty Line, Chaochangdi PhotoSpring 2012, Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, Beijing, China

Introduction by Curator Jillian Shultz

Caochangdi PhotoSpring 2012 presents an exhibition of selected works from The Poverty Line, an ongoing project portraying the varying definitions of poverty around the world. The project, initiated by Stefen Chow and Lin Hui-yi, has explored the economics of the poverty line in 15 countries across 5 continents to date. This exhibition marks the premiere of this body of work in China, the country in which the project originated. In most cases, the everyday items depicted are foodstuffs although there are a few examples of medicinal goods throughout. The decision to present food stems from famed American professor Abraham Maslowʼs A Theory of Human Motivation, which places food at the base of the hierarchy of fundamental human needs. The presentation is simple: items are skillfully arranged atop the full-page spread of a local newspaper. The text, photos, and advertisements of the newsprint remain partially visible and legible depending upon how much of a given item the daily rate allows. Captured directly from above, with clear and simple lighting, the resultant images provide a powerful and thought provoking visual time capsule for the myriad issues of contemporary society. Problems range from social/educational inequality, limited social services and poor nutrition to materialism and media sensationalism, among others. Taken individually, these compelling images bring us face to face with the most basic questions those living at the poverty line deal with on a daily basis.

Taken as a series, this broader purview allows us to begin to trace the connections and parallels between the circumstances of those living at the threshold of poverty, no matter where in the world they may be situated.