Squatter villages are areas of land where people live and children grown up but don’t have a house in the traditional sense. They do have a home though and as you can see here, the children seem to be as happy as ever. I love shooting in squatter villages. This is my second one I have shot and the people are so welcoming. The children were especially excited to have their pictures taken. They’d laugh every time they saw one of their friends show up on the back of my camera.
They’d follow me around as I shot, encouraging me to shoot here or there. Smiles where everywhere. You’ll see the twin girls in green who were so shy but you could tell they really wanted to be photographed. Every time I asked them to step in front of the camera they’d laugh and run away. Many of these children don’t have pictures of themselves so they had a lot of fun as I shot.
When I first started capturing images of the children in the squatter areas it broke my heart to see how little these people had. Clothes are often the wrong size, tattered and worn and some of the children don’t have shoes. Living conditions are harsh; there is garbage lying about and their houses consists of walls built up from concrete bricks and some corrugated steel as a roof. Many villages do not have electricity although this particular one did! We saw the meters just outside.
Now when I go into squatter villages my heart actually warms up. It’s actually easy to see past what the children don’t have and see what they are blessed with. The lack of material possessions just gives them more time for the more important things in life… each other. These children survive by being with each other. It’s the best of social networking before FaceBook came along. You can see the happiness on their faces. It warms my heart now because it’s proof that when you take all the “important” stuff away the human spirit is still very capable of happiness. I feel that happiness and appreciation to be alive when I visit squatter villages.
These two just loved the camera and tried to jump in front of nearly every shot I took. They were having lots of fun. They’d ask me to take a picture of one of their friends and would laugh and point hysterically when they saw the image on the back of my camera.
This guy (yes, it’s a boy wearing a girls top) I will always remember. My friend Henry and I had finished our ‘tour’ of the squatter village and started walking towards our car to head off. Henry was driving and as I got into the passenger side this boy followed me right up to the car and was speaking Tagalog. I could not understand what he was saying but what ever he was saying, he was saying it with lots of enthusiasm and passion. Of course since I don’t understand the language I am trying to figure out if this guy is agitated and perhaps upset that we are in his ‘hood. Henry speaks fluent Tagalog and I could tell from his body language that we were ok. Henry gives him 20 pesos and tells him ‘thanks, we’ll be on our way’. The boy reaches out for the money but continues to jabbering away. He is very animated. Finally I get my door closed and we get ready to pull away.
What I saw is burned into my memory because it was beautiful! He walked back to his friends/family proudly displaying his new 20 peso bill up in the air. He then closed his eyes, tilted his head back and danced as he held the bill up in the air. My only regret is that I didn’t have my camera up and ready to capture that moment. This image was taken after we got out of the car again to take a few pictures of him. I think that’s might be his mom behind him. As I was shooting, she smiled and said, “special, boy”.
I did not get a chance to visit this village again on this trip but I got a bunch of images printed and asked Henry to drop them off to them for me. When he went back he saw the older gentleman but the children were noticeably absent. Henry asked where all the children were. The good news is that they were at school! Most children living in squatter villages don’t have the opportunity to go to school. Yes, it’s a public system but even so they can’t afford the clothes and school supplies needed to go to school.