According to the International Energy Agency’s 2010 report, nearly 1.4 billion people live without electricity. What would it be like to live in a world without this source of power? How would this loss limit one’s experience and development? Peter DiCampo’s latest project, Life Without Lights which was recently exhibited in London, aims to illuminate such a situation in the rural areas of northern Ghana where daylight starts at 6am and ends at 6pm, leaving half the day in complete darkness for 40% of the country. Deciding only to photograph at night, the photographer’s work shows the problem at its most grim; how important parts of daily life are notable to function in a world where light fails.
Suggesting how vital electricity is to maintaining personal freedom, DiCampo's photographsexplore a world in which what people see and do has become limited through a lack of it.Tragically, in a country that is trying desperately to encourage internal growth, not having electricity means that rural villages in north Ghana are not able to attract the teachers, nursesand other essential services that are needed to maintain and build their communities. Inparticular the photographer’s work makes the problems with education poignantly clear: children’s study time is cut short; teachers opt to live in the nearby cities (where there iselectricity) and only come to teach once or twice a week: education and social mobility suffers. For me the most powerful images illustrate the difficulties of the people who try to deal with this issue: in one image a teacher attempts to grade some papers under the light of a single torch; inanother a group of children gather around a light to read the Koran in a mosque. DiCampo usesthe darkness that envelopes the villagers’ lives to highlight their status as a hidden, forgottenproblem: we are told that one village in northern Ghana had power lines installed in 2000 and yet the government still hasn’t connected them to a power source.
Yet Living Without Lights also promotes solutions to the loss of electrical light. The project includes a very striking portrait series which explores the differences that solar poweredlight sources can make at night by using them as the lights for the portraits themselves. The photographers’ shrewdness can also be seen in the fact exhibition in London was funded bythe sustainable energy support group Ashden, who kindly supplied the solar powered torchesnecessary to see the work in situ (as the exhibition took place in a darkened corridor). However whilst sustainable energy sources do have a clear role to play in addressing the problem, andboth Ashden and DiCampo are playing an important role in promoting such a solution, the factthe energy poor in Ghana are simply not connected to the main grid is the major tragedy that desperately needs to be rectified.
Max Colson - www.MaxColson.com