Dollar Street is a photography project aiming to demystify the daily lives of people who live in other cultures.
Covering more than 30 000 photos in 300 homes across 56 countries, it’s a semiotician’s dream.
In each home the photographer spends a day taking photos of 135 objects, from front doors to shoes to household items. These become a searchable database, allowing you to see the commonalities across cultures, how and where things subtly differ. Crucially you can search by geography and by income. So you can compare “what people dream of buying” or children’s toys or front doors as you wish. It’s addictive.
It was founded by Anna Rosling Rönnlund (Hans Rosling’s Daughter) of Gapminder. Her remit is to address misconceptions about global development through accessibly presented information. Over time she found that presenting global trends data didn’t really convey the reality of life in the developing world. In her words:
“People in other cultures are often portrayed as scary or exotic…This has to change. We want to show how people really live. It seemed natural to use photos as data so people can see for themselves what life looks like on different income levels. Dollar Street lets you visit many, many homes all over the world. Without travelling.”
It’s immediately obvious that it’s a powerful tool for empathy. There is a beguiling mixture of hope, pride and pathos in the images. There’s poetry in the everyday.