In Cambodia, at Preas Ang Village, just outside the capital Angkor Wat, Chab Parath stands in the middle of her recently acquired rice field. CARE, a leading humanitarian organization for over 50 years, helped sponsor her micro-financed loan to make the purchase. A wife and mother of five, Parath recently tested positive for HIV.
Last year, documentary photographer Phil Borges, from Mercer Island, Washington, together with student photographer Hoshito Omija, from Nihon University in Japan, captured her story in photographs.
Their efforts were part of the HP/CARE “I Am Powerful” campaign to combat global poverty by empowering women through photography. Five photography teams—which paired professional photographers with student photographers—were assigned to Angola, Cambodia, Egypt, India, and Peru to document women and children fighting for intellectual freedom, social equality, and economic stability in their developing countries.
This past November, more than 20 black-and-white and color photos taken at CARE program sites by the “I Am Powerful” photography teams debuted at the PhotoPlus Expo in New York City. Exhibits followed at Imaging USA in San Antonio, Texas, and MacWorld in San Francisco, California, in January 2007. The images were all printed on HP Designjet Z Photo Printers.
What brought HP and CARE together to begin this campaign? Read on . . .
How the Initiative Began
According to Walt Sledzieski, director of Large Format for HP, the alliance between HP and CARE came together as a “combination of several things.” After introducing the American audience to their new Z series printers at SGIA, and to a worldwide audience at Photokina in Germany, Sledzieski says HP was looking for ways to show the printers’ capabilities.
“We were very intrigued with CARE’s message and cause. Also, we were talking about what we could do to highlight our printing device. Having it wrapped around this social cause made us very excited,” he explains.
The prints from the HP/CARE project achieve a certain intimacy with their audience, through their documentation of humanity. This deeply human approach is also an important aspect in differentiating HP’s brand from other photo reproduction vehicles.
Sledzieski explains how the marriage between HP and CARE sent them on a different path from many of their competitors. “We all have great output devices and our goal is to reproduce the image as true to what the artist intended when they captured it. But for me, working with CARE increases the rate of people looking at our products and considering purchase, because the images have something to say.”
Spreading the Message
Phil Borges will be debuting his own exhibition, “Women Empowered,” showcasing work from his many CARE projects, on March 8, 2007, in the United Nations lobby, in New York City.
For over 25 years, Borges has documented indigenous and tribal cultures around the world to help create a heightened awareness of the issues faced by people in the developing world. He explains that the images taken over the summer “tell a story through the individuals” he captured on film.
“I am filled with admiration for these people and what they overcome, or try to overcome on a daily basis,” he says. When he and Omija arrived in Cambodia for their week’s stay, they met with CARE representatives, who informed them about the different women of the village and their stories. “We took pictures from dawn to dusk.”
Shooting with a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II with a 550 EZ Speedlite, and a 16-megapixel Hasselblad Digital Back, Borges took more than 1,000 pictures, 10 or 15 of which are part of the HP/CARE exhibition.
Borges had been working with CARE for years before he was approached with their most recent project. He says this kind of work invigorates him. “It is something I can do to contribute,” he explains. “I have seen some things that are pretty horrific and sad, but not very often. When I am working, I am impassioned by the look of joy on a lot of their faces, in spite of their circumstances.”
The HP/CARE alliance puts a human signature on some jaw-dropping statistics. Cambodia has a population of 13,607,069 with an estimated 130,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, 59,000 of whom are women, according to the UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic, published in May of 2006, and the CIA World Factbook 2005.