Back in 2002, Chuck and I had some time to kill in Chicago’s O’Hare airport while waiting for a flight. Typically when we have time to kill in an airport, we just walk from one end of the airport to the other and back again. After all, we are about to be sitting for a couple of hours in ridiculously uncomfortable seats so best to get a little exercise while we can. On this particular occasion though, we came across an exhibit that totally caught our attention. It was a photographic depiction for about 30 countries of the ‘typical’ family and their ‘typical’ belongings. Each photo showed the average family with the average number of children and the average pets standing in front of the average home with the average possessions spread out in front of their home. I had to do a search to recall the name of the creator of the exhibit but, thanks to the internet, I found it. Photographer Peter Menzel and his wife, Faith d’Aluisio, had compiled this revolutionary bit of portraiture in 1996 and published it in a book entitled, ‘Material World: A Global Family Portrait’. (Here is a link to an NPR blog that contains 12 of the portraits.)
The differences in worldly possessions was startling as we moved about the eye-opening exhibit observing the USA versus Germany versus Poland versus Mongolia and others. As is often the case, we were a bit relieved that we were not nearly as materialistic as the statistically average American but there was no denying we had our fair share of ‘stuff’ that we considered necessary that would be luxury items in other lands. It certainly gave us cause to reflect and be grateful.
Thanks to a recent Facebook post from my brother-in-law, I see that Peter and Faith took this same concept and collaborated on two more offerings since then :
- ‘What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets’ (2005) takes a look at what a typical person from country to country eats in a day. (Here is a link to an NPR blog that contains seven of the portraits.)
- ‘Hungry Planet: What the World Eats’ (2010) takes a look at what is in the weekly shopping cart for the statistically average family around the world. (Here is a link to an NPR blog that contains a selection of the portraits.)
Click on the links and take a quick scan. Again, the differences from portrait to portrait are startling. Let the photos be just a little ‘food for thought’ and a cause to be grateful this Thanksgiving season. I suspect that is what Peter and Faith were going for with their beautifully depicted exposés.