To discover more about the living life behind a lens we started series featuring 500px photographers, their photos and stories behind them. This guest post is by Konstantin Escher...
After four years of studying psychology and working in different ad agencies in Germany and Switzerland I wanted to get out of the routine and take some time to explore a part of the world that was new for me. Together with my girlfriend I planned a stay in Tanzania for five months. We didn't just want to travel around, primarily we wanted to do some work. So we were looking for some projects on the internet we would like to support.
For one month now we live in Moshi, Tanzania submontane Kilimanjaro. The project I work for is called Social Reality Tour which gives small groups of tourists a feeling for real social problems people in Tanzania have to deal with. Most tourists will take Safaris or climb the Kilimanjaro or relax at the beach on Zanzibar. And we think this is not enough to understand the country and understand the cultural differences between Africa and the western world.
Mama Kishe is a social worker taking care of more than 60 people who need support in the slums around Moshi. The families know that once in a while some guests from all around the world are visiting them and they like to tell their stories. So the Social Reality Tour has the idea of getting to know real issues you originally maybe only heard of before from poverty statistics.
Most of the people in the slums around Moshi have about 1 US-dollar to live per day. The life expectancy is around 40 years which means many children have to grow up with no parents. They will not be able to pay school fees because they have to focus on getting at least something to eat. But with no education they will not have the chance of earning more money some time in their lives.
My job is to optimize the tour, create a new website, collect facts and information about the social reality in Eastern Africa for tourists to take with them. Besides the five senses experience we want the guests to go home smarter and more respectful towards the poorest people in the world.
The people you can see on my 500px profile are some of the people living in the slums around Moshi. We visited them with Mama Kishe so we get to know them and find out how we can support them. Most of them do not speak English, they speak Swahili, the most common language in Eastern Africa. I only know a few words of Swahili ("Habari" = Hello, "Asante sana" = Thank you very much) so Mama Kishe was our interpreter translating into English. Sitting inside their private places talking to them is a really intense experience. You hear, smell, feel and see their situations. But in a strange way you also feel bad because my camera alone is worth more that everything the whole family owns.
So why do I take photos of them? Mainly because I think it is wrong how African people who live in poverty are mostly presented on TV in order to acquire money. I have never seen crying children screaming for help. These people are poor, they are really poor but they are smiling. They have a vision for their future, they have goals they want to reach. And they are extremely thankful and proud. I want to show all of this in my photos to free them from the abstract poverty statistics. We all know the numbers but no one of us can imagine how to feed four children with one US-dollar per day. What can you see on the faces of people who live these lives?
This is the camera equipment I took with me: Canon 5D I, Canon 28mm 2.8, Zeiss 50mm 1.4, Canon 85mm 1.8. All the photos you can see on my profile were taken with available light. I did not use any flash or reflectors. I was showing some on these photos on different photography pin-boards and people kept writing me messages that they want to spend money for these people. I was overwhelmed by the large-heartedness of these people. With the money we already collected we were able to pay the school fees for Queen and we can make Bernhard learn a job as a wood worker because this is what he would love to do.
Did meeting these people influence me in any way? Yes, sure. Of course I started thinking about how these social differences we can find in the world could have happened. I became more thankful for basic stuff. And I thought a lot about excessive consumption. Of course one of the mayor problems down here is education. They need more education. At the same time we need more education to be able to understand and to help. Sending money down here is important but not most important. Empathy is most important. And I hope my photos can help in creating some empathy and respect.
Konstantin Escher is currently in Tanzania continuing his work. If you would like to support Social Reality Tour please write to Konstantin Escher directly firstname.lastname@example.org for IBAN and BIC information. You can donate for a project, sponsor a student or ask about becoming a volunteer.
To meet Mama Kishe, Queen, Rajab, Bernhard, and Juma-Ali click on their photos or visit Konstantin Escher’s website k-e.me. If you would like to meet them in person and take the Social Reality Tour visit social-reality-tour.com.
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