“That comment has a lot more to do with what that person brought to the image than it does with the image itself,” says Merrill. He recalls the television commercials of his childhood in which American actress and activist Sally Struthers announced that, for just 50 cents a day, you could save the life of a starving child. “We see those sorts of charity-related promotional materials, and images of kids with flies on their faces, all the time. It’s in your head—so you see a picture of [African] kids playing and somehow you automatically see crisis or poverty.”
DiCampo and Merrill witnessed similar bias and ignorance while on assignment in South Africa in the midst of the Ebola crisis. “People were saying to us, ‘don’t get Ebola,’ which was happening thousands and thousands of miles away,” says Merrill. “That’s all you see in the news, so it contributes to what you think of a place,” he says.
Fortunately, their push for global visual literacy has found its legs. It didn’t take long for Everyday Africa to spur a global movement. In a year’s time, the unaffiliated Everyday Asia cropped up, quickly followed by a slew of geographical focuses—Iraq, Latin America, and the Middle East—or issue-based accounts, like Everyday Black America, Incarceration, or Climate Change. “New ones pop up all the time,” says Merrill. “The ones that stay active we try to connect with,” like Everyday American Muslim, launched last year in Baltimore in the wake of the U.S. presidential election.
Though many of these projects are formed independently, in 2015 DiCampo and Merrill established The Everyday Projects, a nonprofit geared toward the propagation of Everyday accounts and related projects, from exhibitions to classroom curriculum, in an effort to foster a better understanding of the world through photography.