According to the organization Defeat Poverty DC, as many as 37% of adults living in the District of Columbia are functionally illiterate. This means that while these adults may be able to read or write simple words or sentences, their skills are insufficient for them to excel in society. They may struggle to find employment, and cannot read the important printed information of daily life like bank statements, the news, or a rental agreement.
Last year photographer Amina El Banayosy partnered with Defeat Poverty DC to tell the story of District residents struggling with literacy. El Banayosy knew that she could take the appropriate still images, but felt that letting the voices of the people she met drive the narrative would be more compelling. To do this she created a multimedia piece using audio interviews, still images, and text to complete the story.
The result of El Banayosy’s work is a three minute multimedia piece that brings home the message in a serious, thoughtful, hopeful, and respectful way. By focusing on two adult women trying to earn their G.E.D. we see how not gaining literacy skills at a young age can affect people throughout their lives. El Banayosy transforms the daunting statistic into a personal story.
El Banayosy earned an ADDY award from the regional chapter of the American Advertising Federation for her work and says that working with Defeat Poverty DC was very rewarding. She says:
Working for Defeat Poverty DC was wonderful! Initially, we were planning to tell a broader story about poverty, showing how it has impact on society at large. But for various reasons, we decided to focus on literacy which is one of the main causes of poverty in D.C. It has been a wonderfully enriching experience talking to staff members and interviewing individuals, getting to know their friends and family and learning about their lives and stories.
It is these kind of projects which make me be even more passionate about photography.
More of El Banayosy’s work can be seen on her website, aminaphoto.com.