The Other Hundred, a photo-book project featuring 100 photo stories of people across 91 countries, launched its first exhibition in Hong Kong on Thursday.
The project takes aim at media rankings such as the Forbes Billionaire List and is instead dedicated to people whose lives deserve recognition but who would never make the cut, said Chandran Nair, creator of the project and CEO of the Global Institute For Tomorrow (GIFT), an independent pan-Asian think tank based in Hong Kong.
"The goal of The Other Hundred is both to inform and to provoke thought. The implication of many of the rich lists and articles put out by the media is that being rich is the only way to succeed or live a life of meaning. The reality is that the majority of the people are not rich and we wanted to tell their side of the story," Nair said.
"It's ridiculous there are such lists like the world's 100 most beautiful people when they really look nothing like me or you," Nair added.
GIFT received 12,000 submissions from 1,500 photographers in 156 countries. Nair, together with five other judges selected 100 for the accompanying photo book, published in July. The book includes short essays by acclaimed writers, such as author Pankaj Mishra, renowned Chinese poet Bei Dao and award winning journalist Amy Goodman.
While the project aimed to shed light on the unspoken majority, Nair said that it does not attempt to celebrate poverty or criticize wealth.
"We're trying to provoke people to define for themselves what it means to have a rich and fulfilled life. We're not trying to criticize those who seek material wealth, but the reality is that not everyone aspires to be rich, and not everybody can," Nair said. "You can tell the world is crying out for a more nuanced look at the human condition."
One of the winning photographers, Theodore Kaye, said that he appreciated how the project also challenged the commercialization of the editorial market for professional photographers like himself.
"There's a lot of pressure to deliver what the media wants and everybody at some point is going to bow down to it," Kaye said. "The project shows how life as it is for normal people and things as they truly are."
What was most important, said Nair, was photographers' connection to the photo narratives.
"We didn't want to pick the photographer who parachuted into Afghanistan and got the photo of the exotic young girl in the shadows. We want a name to put to the faces and a story to tell," Nair said.
The exhibition will move next to Mumbai, New York, Beijing and Berlin in 2014. GIFT plans to follow the project with "The Other Hundred Entrepreneurs" in 2015.