The Last Family Portrait

New York, NY (April 29, 2015) – Every 20 seconds, a family in Sub-Saharan Africa loses a loved one to unsafe drinking water – with nothing to remember them by. That’s why WATERisLIFE and Deutsch NY partnered with award-winning photographer, Neil DaCosta, to create a new campaign called, “The Last Family Portrait.” An emotional project that set out to give remote families their first-ever portraits – knowing it might be their last.

Traveling over 8,000 miles into the Omo Valley of Ethiopia, the home of the Hamar and Mursi tribes, families were photographed in front of a marbled blue backdrop, only this time the studio wasn’t in a mall, but rather in a remote and barren landscape – a place where it hasn’t rained in over three months. Many of the families who received family portraits often make up to 10, hour-long trips, daily for water in order to keep their family and livestock alive – only to cultivate unsafe drinking water.

“The conditions were harsh. We had to bring the portrait studio to them and choose their poses carefully,” said DaCosta. “There’s a fine line between tasteful and tacky family photos. Due to the emotional nature of this project, we were careful to stick with the former.”

The print campaign features individual family portraits, each with a call to action, and are being distributed in-kind. The campaign will run in Bloomberg, The Economist, and Forbes, among others.

“Most people go into these rural areas of Ethiopia, snap a picture of the tribes and then leave,” said Kristine Bender, President of WATERisLIFE. “This is the first time anyone has physically printed, framed and given them a family portrait. You could see the gratitude on their faces. Knowing we are making a difference by capturing an important moment in their life, the project’s goal isn’t just to give family portraits, it’s to keep these families alive.”

“Family portraits are our most prized possessions because of the memories they give us,” said Menno Kluin, Executive Creative Director, Deutsch NY. “Imagine a loved one died and you didn’t even have a picture to remember them by, truly heart-breaking.”