Stefen Chow's photo series, The Poverty Line, looks at just how far the daily wages of someone living on 3.28 yuan (49 cents) a day in China goes. Not very far. It's a very compelling way of documenting an abstract economic concept usually reserved for theorists. I had a chance to ask him more about the project and I seriously hope there's someone who want to help him continue this project elsewhere in the world.
GOOD: What inspired you to depict the poverty line in China?
Chow: The poverty issue is a sensitive topic in China. The actual poverty line has been debated upon by different institutions, overseas and local and they can't seem to agree to a common figure. The poverty line is a human induced mindset, which makes it hard for people to fathom. What does it really mean to be poor? Is this a desperate, survival or a situation when you can still get things by? As a photographer, I answer my curiosities through visual means, and hence the project.
GOOD: Why did you choose food?
Chow: I picked the topic from Abraham Maslow's "A Theory of Human Motivation." For the poor, there is little priority for anything else.
GOOD: And how did you go about selecting the newspaper background and food in each image?
Chow: The newspaper sheet was selected from an assortment of papers I buy on the day I was going to shoot. I don't consciously match the food stuff and the papers. Those are paired randomly, as I felt that the interpretations that come out of this has the potential to be stronger. The food were bought at local street markets in China, and I would bargain for my food at 3.2 yuan (it is hard to pay 3.28 yuan for anything). I have already shot more than 100 food samples, and I don't limit the food to simply grain and vegetables. This is not an emotional analysis of what it means to be poor. It is an examination of the choices one would face being poor in China.
GOOD: What else are you working on?
Chow: I am trying to apply for grants to other countries with significant poverty rates and extend the project, while I am also working on a project that depicts the new generation Chinese youth in their environments and what frees and traps them.