Renée C Byer’s exhibit, Living on a Dollar a Day, depicts the heroic struggles of people in ten countries worldwide who live in extreme poverty. The title for the exhibit is inspired by Renée’s recently release book: Living on a Dollar a Day, The Lives and Faces of the World’s Poor. During the Artist Reception on Friday, February 13, Renée will be signing copies of her book.
Byer’s explains in her book that one person in every six lives on less than $1 a day. A startling statistic and the impetus for the book and the compelling photography. The text of Living on a Dollar a Day by Thomas Nazario balances extensive research on the plight of the world’s poor with Byers’ poignant images bringing the stories to life. Byers’ photographs, many of which will be displayed in the Viewpoint exhibit, create an unforgettable impact showing day-to-day details of courage, love and survival. The images themselves are brilliant and quite startling in bold living color.
In order to create this body of work, Byer took a leave of absence from her job as a senior photojournalist for the Sacramento Bee and traveled to 10 countries through four continents over the course of two years. “My work as a photojournalist is usually on an intimate scale through a connection with my subjects,” Byer explains. “I didn’t have that luxury with this project. I had to work through interpreters or social workers, I would have to get into the country and really explain to them my photography: how I work, how I want stories to unfold, that I don’t want to interrupt people’s patterns and that the dignity of my subjects is paramount.”
Byer is working with The Forgotten International, a nonprofit based in San Francisco that works to alleviate international poverty, to publish her book and to help get the word out about the world’s poor.
After focusing for many years on the difficulties of the working class throughout America, Byer felt it was time to turn her attention to the world and bring the images and message closer to home. “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?” said Byer. “My question is could you live in these circumstances, and if you couldn’t, why wouldn’t you want to help?”
“I think of myself as a journalist who chooses the art of photography to bring awareness to the world. Art is a powerful means of expression, but combined with journalism it has the ability to bring awareness to issues that can elevate understanding and compassion. It’s the basic reality of why I do what I do.” —Renee C. Byer
Renee C. Byer is an American documentary photojournalist known for her in-depth work focusing on the disadvantaged and those who otherwise would not be heard. Her capacity to create photographs with profound emotional resonance and sensitivity earned the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography and dozens of other national and international honors, including being a 2013 Pulitzer finalist. She has published, lectured and taught workshops worldwide including, TEDx Tokyo. Living On A Dollar A Day, her award-winning book, invites you to help put an end to global poverty. As a senior photojournalist at the Sacramento Bee her photographs are represented at ZUMA Press.
Renée C. Byer, Child Herder in Bolivia
Following the death of his father, Alvaro Kalancha Quispe, 9, helps his family survive by herding. He opens the gate to the stone pen that holds the family's alpacas and llamas each morning so they can graze throughout the hillsides during the day. He then heads off to school, but must round them up again in the evening in the Akamani mountain range of Bolivia in an area called Caluyo, about an hour from the city of Qutapampa. In this part of the world, the highlands of Bolivia, approximately 13,000 feet above sea level, residents live in homes with no insulation, no electricity, and no beds. Their water comes from streams that run off the snow-covered mountains. Their livelihood lies with their animals, for each animal produces about three pounds of fur each year, and each pound of fur is sold for 18 bolivianos, which amounts to about $2.50 U.S. All in all, this family may earn about $200 of income each year from the herd they watch over.
Renée C. Byer, Working to Survive
In an e-waste dump that kills nearly everything that it touches, Fati, 8, works with other children searching through hazardous waste in hopes of finding whatever she can to exchange for pennies in order to survive. While balancing a bucket on her head with the little metal she has found, tears stream down her face as the result of the pain that comes with the malaria she contracted some years ago. This is work she must do to survive.
Renée C. Byer, Seeking Shelter in Ghana
Known as "Little Cowboys," in their Ghanaian village Tibetob Gmafu, 5, left, Bidimei Gmafu, 5, center, Dawuni Bisun, 7, upper right, and Ninankor Gmafu, 6, below, seek cover from the rain as they keep a watchful eye on cows they were herding. The children say they are not allowed to bring the cows home in bad weather for fear that they will be beaten. They live in fear of a snake bite after their father was blinded by a snake and a brother died. They say they have beaten to death three snakes this past year. They all wish they could go to school instead of working every day herding the animals in their village in the Volta region of northern Ghana.
Renée C. Byer, Children Helping Children
Also true among the poor is that fact that children everywhere take care of other children. Here Vishal Singh, 6, cares for a baby girl while her mother is away in the Kusum Pahari slum in south Delhi, India. When Vishal is not working or attending to his chores, he attends a school for the children of the Kusum Pahari slum. It is located on the slum grounds. The school is an open-air facility. It has no power, no toilets and no books. To learn their lessons the children and teachers here work off chalkboards. Tuition is 2 rupees a week but no child is turned away for lack of funds. When Vishal is not working, he goes off to school with nearly 600 other children of this slum community.