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Full Frame: Life without lights

1.6 billion people worldwide live without electricity. These are their faces.

Full Frame features photo essays and conversations with photographers in the field.

The villagers of Voggu are among the 1.6 billion people worldwide who live without electricity.

I had a simple plan: to photograph only with the light available, so that the reader can see only what the subjects are able to see.

I’ve been treading a careful balance with the stories I choose lately — after two years living as a volunteer in rural Ghana, it’s important to me to tell stories that present a problem without victimizing the subject.

I have no desire to contribute to a stereotypical view of Africa, presenting people as miserable and helpless — but I have every desire to use my photographs toward humanitarian means. How to reconcile the two?

A few weeks ago I returned to Ghana, where I showed the story to a Peace Corps volunteer friend. She used to live in one of the villages I photographed. Her thoughts are wrapped up completely in the ins and outs of village poverty, and the problems specific to northern Ghana. It’s a mindset I remember from my own Peace Corps experience, and one that I miss.

“It works because it’s not about electricity,” she said. “It’s a story about people who have no representation in their own government. The photos are of people living without electricity, but that’s how they’ve always lived. Of course they’re not miserable.”

About the photographer:

Peter DiCampo is an American photographer who divides his time between Africa and the Americas. He launched his freelance career in 2007 while also serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Ghana. Before living in Ghana, he was a staff photographer at The Telegraph in Nashua, N.H., and interned at VII in Paris, Newsday in New York, and the Harvard University News Office. He holds a B.S. in photojournalism from Boston University. In June 2010, Peter joined the VII Mentor Program.

Peter’s photography and multimedia work has been published by Time, MSNBC, Vanity Fair, The Wall Street Journal and many others. His recent awards include a screening of his work at Visa Pour l’Image, the international photojournalism festival held in Perpignan, France, and first prize in the "body of work" category in The British Journal of Photography’s International Photography Awards. He is currently pursuing a long-term project on the lack of access to electricity.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/africa/101021/ghana-electricity