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Firsthand look at a faraway world

Sarah Bones, whose photos are on exhibit in Malvern, frames life in developing countries.

When a tsunami hit India in 2004, most people could only look at the images on television, online and in the news. But photographer Sarah Bones of Malvern, shooting pictures for the relief agency CARE, experienced the tsunami's aftermath firsthand.

Bones, 51, shoots digital photos in color and black-and-white around the world that relate faces to poverty and tell stories through stark, but beautiful, images.

An exhibit at the Malvern Public Library features 27 pictures taken throughout her international travels as a contract photographer for relief organizations Global Action Foundation and CARE USA.

"I love photographing humanitarian causes and telling their stories through pictures. I feel like it is my contribution to helping people," Bones said.

Bones' photos open a shutter to the disease and poverty that exist in developing countries. Bones, who shoots with her left eye, focuses her lens on people in corners of the world that she said are forgotten.

She has taken photos in Sierra Leone; India; Cuba; east, west and South Africa; Guatemala; Thailand; Laos; and all over the United States.

Michael Marchino, CARE consulting director for development, traveled with Bones to the western highlands of Guatemala in 2004. Marchino said that her photographs speak a thousand words.

"We want to find ways to document the work we do through video, photographs and stories, and Sarah always finds creative ways to capture the compelling nature of our work," Marchino said.

Bones took photos locally in Chester County and in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia, and does commercial work in the Philadelphia and Chester County areas. She also shoots pictures for West Chester University, the Upper Main line YMCA in Berwyn, Pennsylvania State University Great Valley, and for commissioner candidates in Chester and Delaware Counties.

Rosalie Dietz, Malvern library director, said that after the library's renovation in 2004, it began featuring local artwork and photography. She said that the library holds about three to four exhibits per year.

Dietz said she particularly is drawn to Bones' striking color photograph Boys on the Road that was taken in Tanzania in 2003. Dietz said that the photographs have grabbed the attention of library patrons.

"It's very different than anything we've had here. In some ways, it's very stark because of the places she has been, but it is just so real and it makes you feel like you are there. It is bringing all these places right here into the library, so I like that," Dietz said.

Bones found many adventures in her travels. On her way to Somalia, the tire blew out in the small plane she was taking, and the metal on the front end dragged across the runway at full speed. Once in Somalia, she traveled in a car with armed guards.

She grew up in Wayne, graduated from Conestoga High School, but did not attend college. A self-taught photographer, she began taking pictures professionally at age 30. Since then, she has built a career as a freelancer and was most recently commissioned to take photographs for CARE in 2006 in Somalia and for the Global Action Foundation in Sierra Leone this year.

About half of the photos on display at the library have never been shown before. Bones calls the show a mid-career display. In June 2006, Bones showed work at the Buckwalter Galleries in Malvern in a show called "Forgotten."

For her next adventure, in March, she plans to go to Tanzania to photograph a boarding school for junior high school girls involved in child labor and at risk for dropping out.

If You Go

Where: Sarah Bones' photography exhibit is open until Jan. 7 at the Malvern Public Library, 1 E. First Ave. in Malvern.

When: The free exhibit can be viewed during the library's normal hours, Monday through Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The library is closed on Sundays. 610-644-7259.

Bones' works on display at the library are available for purchase. Her work can also be viewed online at