05/07/2014 09:22 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Eye-Opening Photos Of Door-To-Door Salesmen In A Nairobi Slum

Mathare is a slum in Nairobi, Kenya, in which approximately 500,000 people live packed into a three-square-mile region.

Many people dwelling in the poverty-stricken neighborhood turn to self-made entrepreneurship in the fight for survival. Filippo Romano's photography series "Nomadic Sellers" captures this population of door-to-door peddlers, pictured with the commodities that form their livelihood on their backs. Romano's eye-opening photos reveal how what began as a mode of survival morphed into something bigger -- a budding economy that's constantly expanding.


Romano's subjects carry on their person everything from watermelons to sneakers to lampshades to medicine, the colorful consumer goods contrasting starkly with their abject surroundings. The close proximity of poverty and the persisting desire to buy and sell shows that while consumerism is often considered a Western phenomenon, the obsession is now shared by most humans around the world. As Jenna Garrett explained in Feature Shoot, "With SIM cards and mobile phones rapidly becoming hot commodities, Romano hints that be it practical or frivolous, longing for material possessions is a universally human trait."

For his series, Romano combines each portrait with a short survey, a practice that lands somewhere between taking inventory and keeping a journal. Romano asks his subjects questions including how many hours they work a day, how much they make on average, whether they are married or have children. The information, scribbled under each image, adds an additional layer of depth and reality to the works that, when looked at alone, seem almost surreal. Romano's powerful photos don't cast any judgment on their subjects, nor do they ask the viewers to pity the salesmen. Instead he captures from close proximity a self-made community that, despite its distance and difficulties, actually resembles the rest of the world in a surprising number of ways.

Take a look into the slums of Mathare below and let us know your thoughts in the comments.

door to door