Peter DiCampo

AGE: 28
BORN: Mendon, Massachusetts
RESIDES: No fixed address
EDUCATION: Boston University
CLIENTS: TIME, Newsweek, MSNBC, GOOD, Médecins Sans Frontières, Human Rights Watch, United Nations, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Carter Center
AWARDS: PDN Photo Annual; BJP International Photography Award
GREATEST CHALLENGE: "There is a bit of a one-man-show aspect of my life that is draining. I spend a lot of time teaching myself video editing, [fundraising], liaising with various NGOs and energy groups, planning events ... it's all important, but at some point it distracts from the photography. Somewhere in the midst of all that I'll remember the pure joy of integrating into someone's family, connecting with them and then trying to share something about them via photography. Then I buy a plane ticket."

Peter DiCampo has spent much of the last three years shooting in the dark by flashlight, kerosene lantern and other makeshift light sources. It makes for an unusual esthetic, but it has a point: DiCampo has been exploring the subject of "energy poverty" around the world.

He began his "Life Without Lights" project as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana. "One night I made a photograph in a mosque of several children reading the Koran by flashlight. It hit me that a full story made with this esthetic would be an evocative way to illustrate how frustrated my neighbors were with the situation ... I realized I was also illustrating the impact of living without electricity, the absence of opportunities, juxtaposed with the sheer magic and vibrancy of life at night in communities that are off the grid."

After leaving the Peace Corps in 2008, he continued the project in other countries, including the U.S. Eventually, he says, "I had to admit to myself that it's not always possible to tell the stories this way." Energy poverty isn't a hardship only at night, so DiCampo started shooting 6 x 6 film during the day, "which worked well with the slow pace of the situation and for still-life images of the technology involved in American off-the-grid life," he says. "I feel the images I'm creating now are less exotic, and more comfortable and human."

DiCampo was attracted to photography by an interest in the exotic. "I assumed I would photograph conflict," he says. But "the exotic became familiar" in Ghana, and he became more interested "in communicating specific issues and trying to connect people." Following advice he'd been given in the VII Mentor Program, he's been using his photography to engage with NGOs, energy companies and other audiences. "I've used these opportunities to contribute to the dialogue on energy poverty; I've found a voice."
—David Walker