The Poverty Line: Snapshots of Subsistence in China

The Poverty Line: Snapshots of Subsistence in China

Anjali Prasertong
Jan 31, 2011

A cup of black beans. Six steamed dumplings. Three potatoes. Stefen Chow's photo series The Poverty Line captures what someone living on 3.28 yuan (about 49 cents) could buy in China, putting into pictures the stark statistics of those living in poverty. The results are not always what you'd expect.

Each group of items is laid out on a piece of newspaper — a single chicken breast, a shower of dried noodles — which seems to highlight the everyday reality of the rations. We weren't surprised by the skimpy meat portion, but we expected some of the fruits and vegetables to be more generous. Two and a half cloves of garlic have never looked so small.

GOOD Magazine interviewed the photographer, who said he bought all the food at street markets in China, bargaining the price down to 3.2 yuan. It's not all subsistence; one photo depicts a handful of gummy candies. This is intentional, says Chow:

I don't limit the food to simply grain and vegetables. This is not an emotional analysis of what it means to be poor. It is an examination of the choices one would face being poor in China.

Check it out: The Poverty Line - Stefen Chow
Read the interview: Interview with Stefen Chow - GOOD

Does this change how you think about life below the poverty line?

Related: Eating on $31 a Week: The Hunger Action Month Challenge

(Image: Stefen Chow)

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