Hundreds of families are living off the grid in Pajarito Mesa, a community just outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The area was never zoned for housing so they lack running water, paved roads and electricity.
Some residents have installed solar panels and are experimenting with wind power. Others struggle to pay for the fuel it takes to run generators for a couple hours each day.
“I think of it as a place that has energy’s past and energy’s future all in one place,” said Peter DiCampo, a photojournalist who began documenting Pajarito Mesa last year under the guidance of the VII Mentor Program.
The resulting images are a part of his “Life Without Lights” project, which aims to reveal the impact of the global energy crisis.
More than 1.4 billion people live without access to electricity, according to the International Energy Agency. It’s a problem DiCampo became aware of while working as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Ghana from 2006 to 2008.
“I lived for almost two years without electricity in the village,” he said. “So I used night-time shooting as a way to illustrate that issue. Then I started to realize it was an international issue and thought a lot more about the implications.”
The long-term project has taken him from Northern Ghana to the oil reserves of Iraqi Kurdistan to Pajarito Mesa. He recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the next two chapters, looking at rising energy costs in the United Kingdom and the effect of the energy gap on women’s health in Uganda.
“Not having electricity [creates] all these impediments to a community developing, whether it’s in Ghana or in New Mexico,” DiCampo said. “In the end it’s a question of what energy’s future will be for all of us.”
The United Nations has designated 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. DiCampo has been asked to exhibit his work at some of the related events.
"For me it’s more important than just publishing it," he said. "It also means I get to share the stories of the people I photograph with policymakers and other people in a position to make a difference."
- Brett Roegiers, CNN