"The Other Hundred" is a unique photo book project aimed as a counterpoint to the Forbes 100 and other media rich lists by telling the stories of people around the world who are not rich but whose lives, struggles and achievements deserve to be celebrated. Its 100 photo stories move beyond the stereotypes and clichés that fill so much of the world's media to explore the lives of people whose aspirations and achievements are at least as noteworthy as any member of the world's richest 1 percent.
This project has a special meaning for me because for as long as I can remember, lists of the rich and famous have had a perverse hold on me. Populated with figures unlike anyone I had ever met with lifestyles the opposite of what I had always been taught was the right way to behave, they clearly could not be held up as models for emulation. And yet, with their wealth, power and influence, weren't they also meant to be models of success -- figures we should be looking up to? Clearly there was confusion here -- possibly even a contradiction. My conclusion was that rich lists were built around a lie. The reality is we can't all be rich. Most people on this planet can't even aspire to having even the tiniest fraction of wealth; 8 out of 10 live on U.S. $10 or less a day.
This is not something to celebrate, but nor should it have us despairing. Rather, it should tell us that if we want to look for success, then we should look elsewhere than those celebrations of excess epitomized by the Forbes' billionaires list and its many imitators. From this insight emerged the idea of "The Other Hundred": to turn the notion of a rich list on its head and celebrate instead not just those at the other end of society, but also the myriad ways in which people around the world use multiple means to gauge their own success and satisfaction -- some material, others not. Developing this idea took a while. I knew I didn't want to celebrate poverty. Being poor is a bad thing; everyone should have enough to satisfy his or her fundamental needs. But nor do people wake up with the dream of becoming millionaires; rather, people set about realizing more concrete, local tasks with the ideas and materials at hand.
One year later the end result of this musing was "The Other Hundred" (www.theotherhundred.com), the first book in what I now know will be a series -- a collection of 100 photo stories from 91 countries across six continents and selected from more than 12,000 images from 156 countries.
Many other ideas, themes and questions came up in the making of this book, and I hope it takes readers on a journey that helps them understand the world a little bit better. But the main goal remains to show the incredible variety of human life that exists in the world and which we almost never hear about. I would like to think that we succeeded.
We are currently working on the second edition of "The Other Hundred" for a December 2014 publication, focusing on the entrepreneurs left out of the mainstream media. These are the millions of people around the world who have ventured out and done things their own way without ever graduating with an Ivy League MBA, hiring an investment bank, planning an IPO or dreaming of fame and fortune.
Below is a series of photos capturing the stories of several of these otherwise overlooked "Other Hundred."
XIENG KHOUANG, LAOS
Photographer: Tessa Bunney
Free Drop Zone
Between 1964 and 1973, during the Vietnam War, the U.S. dropped more than 2 million tons of ordnance on Laos, making it, per capita, the most heavily bombed country in the world. An estimated 30 percent of these bombs and other explosives failed to detonate, leaving the country with approximately 75 million unexploded items when the war ended.
UCT-6 is an all-female clearance team, one of seven in the Xieng Khouang province working for Mines Advisory Group, a United Kingdom-based humanitarian organization that aims to reduce the terrible effects mines and other remnants of conflict can have on people even after wars end. From 2004 to 2012, UCT-6 and the other teams organized by MAG destroyed nearly 162,000 bombs and other unexploded ordinance.
The women of UCT-6 know the tragedies that unexploded ordnance can unleash. One of them lost her husband when he stepped on a bomb while foraging for food, leaving her with five children to look after by herself. Another farms on family land that has not yet been cleared. “We don’t have another place to grow rice,” she says.
Team UTC6 on its way to a clearance site. Deputy team leader Manixia Thor, 25, dressed in green, is responsible for monitoring the team on site.
Photographer: Edwin Koo
“When I wake up in the morning, there are only seven things on my mind -- my children. I know they depend on me. I am their only pillar,” says Mila. Earning less than U.S. $800 a month as a washroom cleaner, Mila has to support her family in one of the world’s most expensive -- and most unequal -- cities.
An extensive social welfare system helps to some extent: some 85 percent of Singapore’s resident population live in public housing. But income equality, albeit less than in Hong Kong, its Asian rival, is greater than in the U.S. or U.K. -- and widening. In 2011, Singapore had 188,000 millionaire households -– about 17 percent of the total, a higher proportion than anywhere else in the world.
Photographer: Bieke Depoorter
Frank, Yvonne and their two teenage children, Lisa and Kevin, visit a rich neighbourhood in Amarillo, Texas, to enjoy the Christmas decorations that adorn most of the homes. The family lives in a trailer. Yvonne has diabetes and Frank suffers from insomnia. Neither Frank nor Yvonne have regular work. Sometimes Frank and Kevin gather and sell firewood to earn some cash. The family is very close and likes to spend as much time together as possible. Often, after school, the parents pick up their two children, buy popcorn and soft drinks and go off for a drive in their car.