This body of work by Chinese photographer Stefen Chow explores a simple question. What does it mean to be poor?
It is not an emotional statement. It is an examination of the choices one would face living at the poverty line. This is an ongoing project, with the first series understanding China, Japan, Nepal and Thailand. They have since expanded this project and have gone to five continents. They are not trying to compare different countries’ poverty, but rather to have a starting point to understand poverty within a country’s context.
One frame. One person. One day. Everything else is left up to interpretation.
We decided to generally calculate a per-person, per-day rate of a national poverty line, and to create a visual portrayal of items found in that country that could be bought by a person living at the poverty line.
For developed countries, where there is relatively updated household consumption data, we focus on the average daily amount that a person at the poverty line would spend on food. For developing countries, we use the average daily amount that a person at the poverty line earns/spends. We have faced challenges in trying to develop a calculation method that makes sense across different countries’ systems, and this is our way of bringing it together.
Countries maintain their own definitions to monitor socio-economic conditions and formulate poverty alleviation policies. In coming up with the poverty line, developing countries largely use an absolute standard based on consumption amount, while developed countries use a relative income standard.