Anna Simpson goes to see a photo exhibition with a difference.
A gallery in central London is showing a collection of photographs in the dark. As you go in, you’re handed a solar lantern which you wave about to light the pictures as you peer into them. In one, villagers crowd around a one generator-powered television in Wantugu, a village in northern Ghana. In another, children read the Koran by flashlight at a mosque. In another, you can just make out surgeons working on a C-section
In all of these images, chiaroscuro (literally ‘light-dark’ – a term first used to describe the work of Italian renaissance artists) is taken to extremes. But it’s also realism. In places with no reliable access to electricity, darkness reigns when the sun sets. The great thing about this documentary display is that it offers each visitor the chance to experience the great difference a simple handheld LED lamp can make. It’s no mean feat in a city where you never really even see the night sky.
The photographer, Peter DiCampo, first became aware of energy poverty while working as a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Ghana. He realised that the lack of a reliable source of energy keeps people poor. It gets in the way of health, education, food production and business. But DiCampo also saw that simple solutions – like the solar lanterns of start-ups ToughStuff and D.Light – can transform lives.
This exhibition, ‘Life without Lights’ at The Strand Gallery, is brought to the public by Ashden, an organisation dedicated to promoting and supporting solutions for sustainable energy. It’s only open until Sunday, so don’t miss out. - Anna Simpson