Victoria Villasana’s uplifting images bring to life the power of ‘The Water Effect’

Posted by
Lisa Martin
19 December 2018
Ethiopia, Madagascar, Rwanda, Uganda, Water, Inequality
Thumbnail WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya Ganga from Nepal feeds one of the baby goats she’s been able to buy since gaining access to clean water.

Download all 8 images + short film here

Talented Mexican artist Victoria Villasana has teamed up with WaterAid to create a stunning collection of unique multimedia images from around the world. The beautiful ‘Water Effect’ gallery shines a spotlight on the global water crisis and highlights the transformative power of water through stories of hope and opportunity. 

Originally from Guadalajara in Mexico, Victoria Villasana uses her unconventional textile art to reimagine stills photography. Through her intriguing use of colourful embroidery directly on to the photographs and uncut yarn falling out of the frame, she has created a dynamic representation of the characters’ portraits for this collection, bringing the images to life.

Victoria’s portfolio includes iconic images of the Queen, Frida Kahlo and Marilyn Monroe. In this very special collaboration, she has worked with uplifting images, taken by WaterAid’s locally-based photographers, of people whose lives have been transformed now they have access to the essentials for life – water and decent sanitation. Life is now full of optimism and it shows in these portraits.
Victoria was particularly inspired by Veronique Rasoarimanana, whose life changed once her family got clean water close to their home. They’ve used the time previously spent collecting water to focus on farming to earn a living for the first time, having a ripple effect. 

Veronique, who was photographed proudly holding her chicken, explained how clean water has changed her life in many ways: 

“We have more time now to grow as much rice as we can on our first planting season, and a few months ago, we bought a few things from selling our first crops. We’ve bought a few chickens, piglets and an FM radio. Things are not the same anymore - so before you take pictures, I need to wear my new clothes and my new scarf!”

On her reflections of the portrait of Veronique, Victoria said:

"I was attracted to the image of Veronique because I thought she looked very confident. I love the fact that she's holding the chicken with a lot of love and passion. You can tell how she’s in a better position now, and the scarf for me kind of represents those changes.”

Victoria represents people in a sensory way, bringing out their personalities with the colours and textures of the yarn, enhancing the photographs and creating a 3D experience for the observer as they look more deeply at the character of the individual.

Victoria added: 

“We often don’t see a face when we hear statistics and numbers. By using colour and patterns I want to bring a humanity to these faces and stories and make people connect on a more emotional level. It's like storytelling with the yarn. I think that's why I just let the image tell me what process, what movement, what flow. It's kind of like the colours are bringing the soul of the person to life.

“I don't just want my art to be pretty – I like art that says something about our humanity. This collection of images is about celebrating how these small changes can really empower people to improve their lives.”

Mary Mosing from Uganda, one of the eight personalities in the gallery, said:

“I’m very happy that the borehole is now near. At any time you can go and fetch water from the borehole. If you have some other work to do like digging, choir practice, caring for your baby, you will all have the time. For me, it is so important my child will grow healthy and strong because we have clean water.” 

Tim Wainwright, WaterAid’s Chief Executive gave his overview of the collection:

“At WaterAid, we believe that making clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere is key to building a world free from poverty. Together, these three essentials create a powerful ripple, transforming people’s health, keeping children in school and helping improve livelihoods and gender equality – that’s the water effect. 

“Victoria Villasana’s stunning and uplifting gallery really brings the transformative power of water to life. Her vibrant embroidery lets the personalities within the photographs shine and provide a unique insight into some of the many impacts of our work.”

First shown at the UN Secretariat in New York this summer, the exhibition is now featuring at special events across the UK. 

To support WaterAid’s work through its winter appeal, ‘The Water Effect’, please visit


For more information, please contact:
Lisa Martin [email protected]; 020 7793 4524, or Laura Crowley [email protected]; 020 7793 4965. Or call our after-hours press line on +44 (0)7887 521 552 or email [email protected]

Notes to Editors:

The Water Effect gallery and exhibition
The exhibition of ‘The Water Effect’ was initially displayed at the UN’s High Level Political Forum in July 2018. Victoria Villansana chose images from WaterAid’s work around the world, along with other images from, and the exhibition was funded by the H&M Foundation. The exhibition is currently touring water company offices, and will be at the Scottish Parliament in March 2019.


WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to clean water and sanitation. The international not-for-profit organisation works in 28 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 25.8 million people with clean water and 25.1 million people with decent toilets. For more information, visit, follow @WaterAidUK or @WaterAidPress on Twitter, or visit us on Facebook at

  • 844 million people in the world – one in nine – do not have clean water close to home.[1]

  • 2.3 billion people in the world – almost one in three – do not have a decent toilet of their own.[2]

  • Around 289,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That's more than 800 children a day, or one child every two minutes.[3]

  • Every £1 invested in water and toilets returns an average of £4 in increased productivity.[4]

  • Just £15 can provide one person with clean water.[5]

  • To find out if countries are keeping their promises on water and sanitation, see the online database


[1] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines

[2] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines


[4] World Health organization (2012) Global costs and benefits of drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to reach the MDG target and universal coverage