Bénédicte Desrus

Documentary Photographer + Photojournalist
Location: Marseille, France
Nationality: French
Biography: Bénédicte Desrus   is a French documentary photographer working worldwide. After 20 years of living abroad, including 15 in Mexico and four in East Africa, she returned to her home country in July 2021 and is currently based... read on
Public Story


Obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally. The number of overweight and obese people worldwide is now greater than those suffering from malnutrition, according to the International Red Cross. The problem, first documented in rich countries, is dramatically increasing in the developing world, particularly in urban settings, from Kenya to Mexico. And it’s happening quickly. Fifty years ago, we did not have obesity indicators. Since 1980, the number of overweight and obese has more than doubled.
These photographs explore the consequences of the obesity crisis globally, how the West exported it to the developing world, and most interestingly how cultures are coping and struggling with it.
In 2011, I started to photograph Donna Simpson, a 602-pounds American who holds the Guinness World Record as the heaviest woman to give birth. In 2008, she began a quest to reach a thousand pounds. Internet fans supported her, paying to watch her eat, and news media flocked to her story. But she also received hate mail, showing Americans’ contradictory attraction and revulsion towards food and obesity.
Her story drove me to investigate obesity and its impact more deeply. I began observing obesity’s growing impact in places like Egypt, Kenya and Mexico. The consequences of obesity and related diseases are especially dire for the developing world whose health systems are already reeling from the toll of infectious diseases like Malaria and HIV. The so-called “nutrition transition,” where cheap, processed, sugary and fatty foods replace traditional diet, is wrecking silent havoc on the world’s poor. Now they face diabetes and heart disease, illnesses that take massive resources to treat, resources their governments do not have.
Obesity hurts not only individuals, but is also a symptom of an unsustainable global economy and social norms. The processed, energy-dense and unhealthy foods exported by the West replace traditional diets and reshape agriculture to produce the industrial ingredients needed, leaving a deep ecological footprint. In the slums of Nairobi fried food has taken over the streets, in Mexico soda is called “agua,” or water.

This reportage aim to shed light on the truly global nature of an epidemic still thought of by many as a “rich world" problem.


Also by Bénédicte Desrus —


Education in indigenous communities during school closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico.

By Bénédicte Desrus / Yucatán, Mexico — In Mexico schools have kept closed for over a year, which has led to the number of children not..

When I grow up

By Bénédicte Desrus / Mexico — When I Grow up For one year, I photographed my 4-year-old son Thiago, as part of a project titled ..


By Bénédicte Desrus / World


By Bénédicte Desrus / Nairobi, Kenya — DANDORA   Located near slums in the east of the Kenyan capital Nairobi, the Dandora dumpsite is one of..

Madiaba Busaa Club

By Bénédicte Desrus / Nairobi, Kenya — MADIABA BUSAA CLUB   Busaa , a local Kenyan beer, is sold at hundreds of tiny bars throughout slums in..

The Women of Casa Xochiquetzal

By Bénédicte Desrus / Mexico City — THE WOMEN OF CASA XOCHIQUETZAL Have you ever thought about what happens to sex workers when they get old?..

Dreaming big

By Bénédicte Desrus / Mexico City — DREAMING BIG In Mexico, the first and only women’s national ice hockey team, the Selección..

Keep Moving

By Bénédicte Desrus / Mexico City — KEEP MOVING Meet Baruch, who, at eighteen, is one of Mexico's best young footballers. Two years ago,..

Where the blood goes

By Bénédicte Desrus / Mexico City — WHERE THE BLOOD GOES Inside the Life of Mexico's Pioneering Forensic Cleaner Meet Donovan Tavera,..

The persecution of homosexuals in Uganda

By Bénédicte Desrus / Kampala, Uganda — THE PERSECUTION OF HOMOSEXUALS  IN  UGANDA Uganda has criminalized homosexuality for over a..

The devastation caused by injecting foreign substances for cosmetic purposes into the body in Mexico.

By Bénédicte Desrus / Mexico City — HUMAN ADJUVANT DISEASE The devastation caused by injecting foreign substances for cosmetic purposes into..
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