Chris de Bode

Dutch born Chris de Bode’s path in life started with a dream. On his way to primary school, he always passed the photo shop in town. By the age of 10, he could advise people which camera to buy. In his early twenties, he was still searching for a purpose in life, until he remembered the photo shop. He decided to buy his first camera. As a mountaineer he took his first pictures. Following a trip to Palestine he decided to focus his work on humanitarian issues. He now has travelled to over 90 countries, meeting people and collecting stories. When you understand a person from a personal point of view and understand the context in which they live, it is much easier to connect with them. And that is his goal – to make people more sensitive to the world around them.

Port au Prince, Haiti. Blaise pretends to drive an old, broken car. Blaise Bedzermitki Leveltson is 12 years old.

Chris always tries to find different angles in visualizing the stories he works on. In ‘No Way Home’ he has tried to explore what it means for people to lose their homes while ‘Tour du Monde’ took him to China, Colombia, Cuba, Eritrea, Qatar and Senegal, following international cycling teams as they raced across diverse terrains and through culturally and politically charged environments. Chris’ series on migrant workers fleeing from war-torn Libya – ‘Exodus’ – was published over 9 pages in FOAM Magazine, the prestigious journal of Amsterdam’s Photography Museum and was praised by Stephen Mayes, Director of the Tim Hetherington Trust, in an Aperture publication as “.. remarkably innovative, seen in a print context.”

For the past years, Chris has been working in collaboration with Save the Children Netherlands, capturing the dreams of children worldwide and covering issues relating to Syrian refugees. He also directed a documentary film about children collecting scrap for sale in Lebanon.

More than a decade ago, he had an assignment to photograph Ethiopian children in their school. He asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. Save the Children Netherlands took notice of this photo series. On the first trip he travelled to India in 2011 where he visited children in the slums where Save the Children carried out projects. He asked the question none of these children had never been asked before: What do you dream of? At first some answers seemed improbable, or mere childish fantasies. A closer look revealed the opposite to be true: almost every dream of every child turned out to be a solution to things that needed improving in their lives. With that striking realization, he knew he was onto something. For the past eight years, he has been working on this project. 

Djarida, dressed up as a veterinarian, holds a chicken and pretends to inject it with a syringe. Djarida is 8 years old and lives in San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico.

Each time he went on an assignment for Save the Children, he also collected dreams. In this project, he says: “The doorbell is a much more important button than the shutter release on my camera.” When someone opens, the contact is initiated. He makes contact and only much later he takes pictures. None of these photos was pre-produced. Everything depended on the moment. He did not know what a child would say, nor how he would then depict the dream. With only the simplest materials at hand, he had to make it work. It has therefore been the biggest challenge in his career as a photographer. After working on the project over the past eight years the book DREAM was finally published late 2019.

Chris de Bode’s images show the power of people and at the same time how vulnerable we all are. It is a visual search for connection that invites us to look beyond the stereotypical image we have of each other.

DREAM, The power of Children, 2019
Tour du Monde, 2009