Photographer Miguel Samper recently visited headquarters to give a workshop for Mercy Corps staff. Miguel continues to be one of our most trusted photographers and always provides us with images we are able to use in a wide variety of ways.
His visit offered me the opportunity to sit down with him and look as some of his work in our library. I’m attracted to the quiet, still life images he creates while working with our beneficiaries. Miguel is able to organize a wide variety of visual elements within the frame. The result is often an image I can return to several times before I see everything that’s been included.
This ability is complemented by his beautiful use of low light. This photograph was taken during his 2010 trip to his country of birth, Colombia. It’s the kitchen and home of a displaced family threatened off of their farm that was created out of an abandoned municipal truck depot “complete with oil change pits.”
When Miguel works with a humble scene like this, he never makes us feel like voyeurs. Instead, he draws us in with a compassionate eye. We’re intrigued by the tiny, individual elements: the green mirror with toothbrushes and shaving kit; a single shoe being repaired on the shelf below; the bicycle inexplicably hanging from the top of the wall. What I hadn’t seen until we looked together was an umbrella hanging in its place near the organized rows of pots and pans. Of what possible use is an umbrella with no fabric? And why is it hanging in such a conspicuous location?
Miguel’s quiet images are consistently a treasure trove of questions like these.