Acumen and Martin Schoeller Launch #SeePeople Campaign to Change the Way the World Sees the Poor

New York, NY, Oct. 17, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Acumen, the nonprofit social venture fund, has teamed up with renowned photographer Martin Schoeller to create a campaign to change the way the world sees the poor and how poverty is portrayed. The #SeePeople campaign kicks off today, on the UN’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, with activations across New York City and around the world on social media.

Founded by Jacqueline Novogratz in 2001, Acumen invests philanthropic capital in companies creating sustainable solutions that enable people living in poverty to transform their lives. In an effort to change the narrative around low-income populations, #SeePeople showcases more than 50 Martin Schoeller portraits of Acumen’s customers, men and women living under $5 a day.

“How the poor are perceived is critical to how we, as a world, tackle poverty,” said Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO of Acumen. “There are more than 3 billion living in absolute poverty. That is three billion individuals society fails to see, men and women who have the power within them to create waves of change in their community and beyond. Poverty can no longer be seen as someone else’s problem, and the poor can no longer be seen as unvalued dependents of society. It is time to focus on potential where too many see despair.”

Through the power of Martin Schoeller’s iconic, visually arresting portraiture, the #SeePeople campaign challenges the public’s perceptions, pushing them to see the poor as people and acknowledge our shared humanity. By applying his unique style of photography to some of the poorest people in the world, the campaign removes the individual’s environment from the equation. The surrounding, whether it’s an urban development in Kenya or a field in rural India, are no longer what defines the person—rather, it’s just themselves as individuals. Each of Schoeller’s portraits is accompanied by a story told in the words of the men and women featured to bring voice and visibility to the people Acumen serves around the world. 

From today until Giving Tuesday, November 28, #SeePeople will roll out through the following activations, giving the public the opportunity to interact with the stories and learn more about each of the people featured:

  • Times Square – Acumen has kicked off the campaign with a two-week placement in the middle of Times Square (Broadway between 45th and 46th Streets)
  • Photo Exhibit – Acumen and Martin Schoeller are hosting an invite-only photo exhibit and benefit at New York’s Milk Studios this evening. The event’s host committee includes Marina Abramovic, Chris Anderson, Arianna Huffington, Beth Comstock, Elizabeth Gilbert, Rupert Friend, Aimee Mullins amongst others.
  • Print and Digital Marketing Campaign – The faces of #SeePeople will be popping up around New York City on phone kiosks, newsstands and the like as well as a number of places online, so people have the chance to interact with the stories and learn more about each of the customers featured.
  • Social Media – Acumen will share one customer portrait and story a day across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to spotlight each of our customer’s unique personal stories. It will also activate its global community of companies, entrepreneurs, partners, and influencers to share on social media, as well as other peer organizations to help amplify the message of the campaign and share these portraits and stories. Follow along at Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

The campaign was created in partnership with The Working Assembly based in New York. To learn more about the concept behind #SeePeople, visit

Media Contact:
Carolyn Bielfeldt
Head of Content and Media Relations, Acumen  | 917.968.8763


Acumen is changing the way the world tackles poverty by investing in companies, leaders and ideas. We invest patient capital in businesses whose products and services are enabling the poor to transform their lives. Founded by Jacqueline Novogratz in 2001, Acumen has invested more than $110 million in 102 companies across Africa, Latin America, South Asia and the United States. We are also developing a global community of emerging leaders with the knowledge, skills and determination to create a more inclusive world. In 2015, Acumen was named one of Fast Company’s Top 10 Most Innovative Not-for-Profit Companies. Learn more at and on Twitter @Acumen.

Martin Schoeller (German, b. 1968) is an award-winning portrait photographer renowned for extreme- close up portraits. Familiar faces are treated with the same levels of scrutiny as the un-famous. The unknown and the too-well-known meet on a level platform that enables comparison, where a viewer’s existing notions of celebrity, value, and honesty are challenged. Growing up in Germany, he was deeply influenced by August Sander’s countless portraits of the poor, the working class, and the bourgeoisie, as well as by Bernd and Hilla Becher, who spawned a school known as the Becher-Schüler. Schoeller’s close-up portraits emphasize, in equal measure, the facial features, both studied and unstudied, of his subjects— world leaders and indigenous groups, movie stars and the homeless, athletes and artists— leveling them in an inherently democratic fashion.

Schoeller worked as an assistant to Annie Leibovitz from 1993 to 1996. He advanced as a freelance photographer, producing portraits of people he met on the street. His work gained recognition for its strong visual impact and since 1998, his work has appeared in Rolling Stone, National Geographic, TIME, GQ, Esquire, Entertainment Weekly, and The New York Times Magazine, among other publications. Schoeller joined Richard Avedon as a contributing portrait photographer at the New Yorker in 1999, where he continues to produce award-winning images. His portraits are exhibited and collected internationally, including in several solo exhibitions in Europe and the United States and are included in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. He studied at Lette Verein in Berlin and lives and works in New York City.


A photo accompanying this announcement is available at