Anna Rosling Rönnlund
What does the world really look like? How do other people really live? If we could see beyond the drama of the news headlines and the glamour of glossy travel ads, what could we learn about the world’s inhabitants – and about ourselves? At Dollar Street we’ve been curious about this for a long time.
It started as a simple thought: what if we could see statistics? What if, instead of trying to understand the numbers in a table or the figures in a graph, we could get a picture of what was being portrayed? Not all of us are good at statistics. (Let’s face it, almost none of us are.) But I’ve always had a passion for photography and for trying to make sense of people’s everyday lives. I knew I was on to something, and the vision of Dollar Street slowly started taking form.
Together with my husband, Ola Rosling, I started documenting the first homes back in 1999 (at my mother’s house in Ludvika, Sweden and with the Papon family in the Dominican Republic). With a grant from SIDA I could also document homes in Uganda, South Africa and Mozambique. The first interface was created and my idea started taking physical form.
At Gapminder we were at that time working on the bubble graphs that we would later sell to Google, and it took almost all of our time. But the idea of Dollar Street – a visual framework that would help us understand socio-economic differences of the world – didn’t leave me.
At first I wanted to travel the world and photograph every home myself. Yes, maybe a little naive. Today we work with photographers all over the world and Dollar Street is fast becoming what I envisioned all along. Today we feature more than 200 homes in about 50 countries, with a grand total of over 30 000 photos and 10 000 videos from these homes. A generous grant from Swedish Postkod Foundation made it possible to give Dollar Street the time needed, and in three years time we have collected photos and developed a tool free for everyone to use. It’s a dream come true! And hopefully one that you’ll enjoy as much as I do. Now go explore!