What Survival Looks Like

by Steph Plourde-Simard

In the hills outside of La Antigua, Guatemala – an area known for extreme poverty, violence and gang rule – I came to know Ana, Julio and their 5 young children. While documenting their home and family I was humbled by their hospitality and warmed by their incredible spirit. As much of the Guatemalan population lives in varying degrees of poverty, the daily lives and “everyday” stories of those surviving near-impossible situations are often invisible, except to illustrate the occasional news bite or political campaign.

Through my experiences as an international solidarity activist and working against domestic violence in my community, I have learned that the simple act of “just surviving” is actually a powerful and revolutionary one. I am moved and heavily influenced by this theme in both the images I create and my actions in life. I am interested in the various forms that survival takes, particularly in how it manifests in daily life, and whether it’s visible or not.

This series began as a question to myself about what survival looks like, and whether it can be seen and understood as the powerful force it is, even in everyday situations. Looking for answers, I was privileged to spend time with a loving family who are waiting for their world to change, for the political climate to tilt in their favor, and for their children to grow up into different circumstances. When children find ways to play through the boredom of poverty, and adults continue to love and create new lives among the stress of daily life, systems of oppression are challenged and betrayed.

Steph Plourde-Simard

Steph Plourde-Simard is a Boston-based documentary and fine art photographer, and a 2008 graduate of the New England School of Photography, where she received honors in black and white, documentary, and her overall portfolio. She also holds a BA in Sociology and Women’s Studies and an MA in Gender/Cultural Studies, both from Simmons College. Steph’s work is typically influenced by the issue of survival.

Her background as a social justice activist and love of storytelling has led to a style that shows passion and sensitivity towards her subjects, while seeking to address broader social/political issues through personal stories. In January of this year, What Survival Looks Like was exhibited as a solo show at the Almanac Gallery in Hoboken, NJ.

More pictures and further details can be found at www.stephplourdesimard.com

What’s in the bag?
I generally shoot a mixture of film and digital, with a 35mm Voigtlander Bessa rangefinder and a 35mm DLSR. I shot this particular series with my Sony A100 DSLR, a Sony 18-70mm/3.5 lens, and a Minolta 50mm/1.2 lens, all with existing light.

All images copyright © Steph Plourde-Simard