Beauty in Hell: Beauty over Drama

Tony Corocher

2013 - Ongoing

Nairobi Area, Kenya

“Beauty In Hell” is a personal photographic project started 3 years ago. The project objective is to find and document the beauty present in some of the most difficult, poverty stricken and dangerous realities around the world. Here two of the largest slums in the world: Mathare and Kibera, Nairobi.

“Beauty In Hell: Beauty over Drama” is a critical and personal artistic response to an increased awareness of living in a system that uses drama everywhere. I believe we are now unconsciously accustomed to consider an event interesting and noteworthy only if it contains some form of strong contrast, therefore if it is dramatic. Without drama there is no news and everything becomes boring, dull and not worth of our time. In simple terms we tend to use drama to make sensationalism.

But Drama is just one part of the story… if drama becomes the only thing mainstream media covers and the only thing we hold up, what can we expect to grow from it?

With “Beauty In Hell” I am trying to express, through artistic sensibility and not sensationalism, exactly the opposite and show that also within these extremely hard situations beauty is always present… that the beauty inside the human spirit is present everywhere, even in places that might be described as real life circles of Dante’s Inferno.

Yes, the main objective remains that of informing the public and bringing awareness of the desperate conditions, of the extremely poor level of life and of the nearly complete absence of human dignity, but I would like to do this in a slightly different way… by also showing the beauty inside these situations and not just the drama.

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  • "Contrasts: Curiosity & diffidence, desperation & indifference" - Through the streets of Mathare Slum (Nairobi). The contrast between the innocent beauty of the young girl, the vivid diffidence of the boy behind her, the finality of the desperation shown by the man on the ground and the indifference of the people passing by. This is the ensemble of feelings that runs through these slums every day.

  • "The Street Children" - The first thing that comes to my mind when I see this picture is:
    "good capture... but where is the supposed beauty?" Beauty is very hard to see here, but it is there. These children sniff glue, oil and solvents and eat from the garbage found on the streets. They are part of extremely dangerous street gangs and can be very difficult. The beauty may not be visible at first but it is there, in the situation, in the fact that I was able to get 20-30 of them together, to convince them to stay with me for a few hours, to trust me and viceversa, to tell me their stories and their "dreams". The boy in the foreground is only 18... the other two around 15.

  • "Something ahead… maybe" - I ran into this little boy the first day in Mathare Slum (Nairobi). He was going to school and looked like he was wandering about the future. Behind him one of the streets leading into the slum.
    A strong element, and one of the things that stands out in this image is the contrast between the harsh environment and the label "Strong" on the boy's jacket (that was luck... I did not see it while shooting).

  • "A happy family..." - This family was made up of 3 women (mother and 2 sisters)... the father disappeared a long time ago. These women take care not only of their own children (which are a few as you can see) but have also started a project to try to rescue the so called "Street Children" (see photo n.2). The three women provide them with 1 or 2 proper meals a week.

  • "High quality, protein soup ready..." - On the street of Mathare Slum, Nairobi.
    This woman is preparing a basic meal which will be sold to the people walking by. Most people (especially women) always find something to do to make a living. There are many women like this one, cooking or doing some other kind of activity on the streets of Mathare, Kibera and in all the other slums.

  • "Disillusion..." - Come to church and "the knowledge of God Ministry" will save you from desperation!
    Welcome to Mathare!!! When I saw this man I immediately pictured him as someone who had seen it all, someone who knew that with or without religion there is no easy way out. Complete, total poverty pushes men to believe, just in order to have a little hope. Right or wrong, it is still a good thing in these desperate situations.

  • "Africa, where are you going?" - A young girl playing on the railway that runs through Kibera (the second largest slum in the world - Nairobi). All you can see in the background is Kibera with over one million people. While I was taking this picture my mind kept thinking about what kind of future awaits the African countries.

  • "Makadare Market/Slum" - Here we are inside Makadare, one of the largest markets/slums in Nairobi, where people work using old tires and rubber objects to produce shoes, tools and various other things.

  • "An old craft still alive" - Just outside Kibera Slum (Nairobi) a job that has nearly disappeared in the western world is a means of sustenance in these areas.

  • "Enjoying the fleeting moments" -

  • "Little Ghosts" - This is a shot from my first year (when I went inside to do research) done in infrared and slow motion. "Mercy" is the woman in the middle... she said that she has taken care of over 200 children in the last 10 years. True or not she was doing an amazing job in an incredibly hard place. Those around her are some of the children she was taking care of at the time.

  • "The production process" - Inside Makadare, one of the largest markets/slums in Nairobi. People are working on the production of shoes from old tires and other rubber recycled objects. This is where products are made, where the work is done and, normally, people are not allowed to enter here. This place is like a huge labyrinth of tiny shops and small businesses crammed together.

  • "The plastic bottle business" - Just as you enter Mathare (Nairobi) you run into this "recycle factory". These people spend their days picking up plastic bottles from the streets and then try to sell them by weight. They hang out around Mathare and try, like anyone else, to make a living out of whatever they can find.

  • "Western beauty in Nairobi's hell" - This little girls caught my eye because of a really strong contrast... she was holding a classic symbol of western beauty inside one of the harshest realities in the world.

  • "The production process" - Inside Makadare, one of the largest markets/slums in Nairobi. People are working on the production of shoes from old tires and other rubber recycled objects. This is where products are made, where the work is done and, normally, people are not allowed to enter here. This place is like a huge labyrinth of tiny shops and small businesses crammed together.


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