It's hard to imagine but, today, slightly over one billion people on the planet live on a dollar a day. That's one out of every six people. To put a human face on global poverty, San Francisco non-profit The Forgotten International teamed up with photojournalist Rene C. Byer in a powerful series called Living on a Dollar a Day. Byer was challenged to take the staggering statistic and tell stories that would engage the reader through the eyes of her subjects, helping to create a deeper understanding of those living in extreme poverty. Last year, a book was published that gave the invisible a face. Over 200 color photographs show the improvished conditions in which her subjects live.
For the series, Byer took a leave of absence from her job as a senior photojournalist at the Sacramento Bee. She embarked on a life-changing, two-year journey that would take her through 10 countries – Bangladesh, Bolivia, Thailand, Cambodia, Liberia, Moldova, Peru, Ghana, India and Romania. She made it her mission to go behind the scenes or into people's homes, finding slices of everyday life that people could relate to. Byer was very conscious of taking images that wouldn't turn people away. Instead, she tried to capture a gamut of emotions so that everyone, including mothers and fathers, could imagine themselves in her subjects' shoes. As she said, “Some pictures are agonizingly painful to look at, but I was conscious to make them in a way that people could imagine themselves in the scene. That was the challenge to ask people to step into the photograph, could they live in these circumstances? My question is could you live in these circumstances, and if you couldn't, why wouldn't you want to help?”
The book, Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives and Faces of the World's Poor, was released last year to international acclaim. It won the 2014 International Photography Award for Best Documentary Book. Not only can you buy the book, but starting tomorrow, February 11 through March 7, you can see an exhibition of the photos at Viewpoint Photographic Art Center in Sacramento. The gallery is showing 42 of the book's 215 images. “For this particular show I didn't want frames around the photographs,” Byer told The Sacramento Bee. “I wanted to have it so there wouldn't be a barrier between the image and the person.
“What I'm trying to do is elicit the emotions but also to get this shared humanity (with) what you're witnessing in the image,” she said. “It ultimately is a call to action in a certain way.”
All images in this article are copyright Rene C. Byer