Reportage and Archives: Archives: Allergic to Homework, Sierra Leone
Every photographer who's ever worked in the developing world sees these every day -- western T-shirts that are the cast-offs of our everyday lives in the West. For most of us, it's worth a snapshot, maybe two, for a laugh. But while working in Sierra Leone on a long-term, post-conflict project, I began to pay closer attention to these T-shirts and the messages they carried -- slogans from a life, a culture, a political system, a consumer world, that began to take on a surprising irony as I considered them in such dramatically different surroundings. So I began shooting T-shirt portraits -- approaching them as snapshots, making a photo right where I encountered the person wearing the T-shirt. I gave myself rules: I couldn't wait for good light, or move the subject to another location, the image had to be vertical, and I couldn't take more than one frame (unless something went unexpectedly wrong, such as the individual being interrupted while I was shooting). One picture alone doesn't really tell the story. But taken together as a group, the images begin to speak. They re-shape and re-contextualize the messages of our own lives -- creating new meanings and raising questions about how we relate to the developing world.