Pulitzer Center Update

The Woman in the Photo

Pausing in the rain, a woman working as a trash picker at Nairobi's Dandora dump, which spills into households of one million people living in nearby slums, wishes she had more time to look at the books she sometimes comes across. She even likes the industrial parts catalogs. “It gives me something else to do in the day besides picking [trash],” she said. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.

Micah Albert and Pauline Mweni in Dandora, three years after Micah took her photo. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2015.
Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.

In 2012, Pulitzer Center grantee Micah Albert traveled to Dandora, an eastern suburb of Nairobi, Kenya—and what is considered the largest dump site in the world—to document the lives of people who scavenge at the site.

His photo of a woman who was working at the site—the last image he took in the course of several weeks reporting in the dump—won first place in the World Press Photo Awards, Contemporary Issues, in 2013. Along with the rest of the World Press Photo winners, the photo traveled to over 100 galleries across the world and seen by millions. Albert received hundreds of emails asking more about who the women in the photo is and how to help in this community.

In early 2015, Albert returned to Dandora and just a couple hours into his reporting at the dump, he saw the women he photographed three years before—the woman who had drawn so much curiosity back home.

Albert recalls in his blog: “I ask, 'unakambuka mimi?' (do you remember me?) and with a most beautiful smile, says, 'of course!.' With that, my emotions got the best of me. To imagine the differences of our lives and what has transpired over the last 3 years; the disparity glaring and inequity harsh."

Read more about Albert's journey back to Dandora and his reuniting moment with Pauline Mweni, the woman in the photo, on his blog–www.micahalbert.com–while exploring more of his work.

Update September 13, 2016: Viewfind published "When a Landfill Is Your Livelihood" featuring Albert's Dandora photography.