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Fair Trade Photography Battles ‘Development Pornography’

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“Upwards of 90% of the images of the majority world that are seen in the western media are produced by white photographers from the USA or Europe. This results in a one dimensional view often driven by a negative news agenda or the need to raise money.”

“Recognizing everybody’s communication rights in the information society is not mere slogan or campaign; it’s an integral part of social justice.” [Photos and quotes from fair trade group - Kijiji Vision site]

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In the past month there has been a slate of news from Reuters, MSF and others, surrounding imagery and how western media portrays the world. Imaging Famine is about media representations and was mentioned this week by a Reuters blog. This is nothing new, but the debate is good, and as the Reuters piece points out, they have covered the issues surrounding ‘development pornography‘ previously. Another Reuters writer also picked up on this entire theme: Viewing the poor through Western eyes, I recommend the short read below and checking out the Kijiji/Majority World websites-

Part of the reason for this kind of post-colonial choreography by INGOs is because they are still required to be the visual mediators of the poor world to the rich world. In Western society, our INGOs are inter-cultural gatekeepers. And you would often have for example, the young white INGO nurse talking passionately on television beside starving children…Full story.

The above Reuters piece mentions Kijiji Vision, who were the guests for MSF’s Spring series on the Ethics of Imagery. Kijiji supports and promotes indigenous photographers and has a separate site for purchasing photos, check out Majority World. Two other bits of related content from this week. First, Buffett (son of Warren) donated $730,000 to the journalism school at Nebraska to help student photojournalists record the wants of the world. And finally Together TV (yet another video outlet) has launched more video “in their own words”.

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Written by Aman

May 9, 2007 at 5:15 am

12 Responses

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  1. [...] Kristof, of course, has built up a sizable empire around exploitative “suffering porn”, featuring miserable women of the global south and himself as the Great White Saviour, but he’s not alone. Look at the depictions of Malawi in discussions about Madonna’s high-profile adoption (and contrast that with Binyavanga Wainaina’s sharp, incisive ‘How to Write About Africa‘ essay, which skewers western narratives about the continent). Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire showed us chipper orphans in a development porn-esque version of India; much of the media westerners encounter of the global south is produced by white people, for white eyes, featuring white voices. [...]

  2. [...] Kristof, of course, has built up a sizable empire around exploitative “suffering porn”, featuring miserable women of the global south and himself as the Great White Saviour, but he’s not alone. Look at the depictions of Malawi in discussions about Madonna’s high-profile adoption (and contrast that with Binyavanga Wainaina’s sharp, incisive How to Write About Africa essay, which skewers western narratives about the continent). Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire showed us chipper orphans in a development porn-esque version of India; much of the media westerners encounter of the global south is produced by white people, for white eyes, featuring white voices. [...]

  3. [...] Kristof, of course, has built up a sizable empire around exploitative “suffering porn”, featuring miserable women of the global south and himself as the Great White Saviour, but he’s not alone. Look at the depictions of Malawi in discussions about Madonna’s high-profile adoption (and contrast that with Binyavanga Wainaina’s sharp, incisive How to Write About Africa essay, which skewers western narratives about the continent). Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire showed us chipper orphans in a development porn-esque version of India; much of the media westerners encounter of the global south is produced by white people, for white eyes, featuring white voices. [...]

  4. [...] Kristof, of course, has built up a sizable empire around exploitative “suffering porn”, featuring miserable women of the global south and himself as the Great White Saviour, but he’s not alone. Look at the depictions of Malawi in discussions about Madonna’s high-profile adoption (and contrast that with Binyavanga Wainaina’s sharp, incisive How to Write About Africa essay, which skewers western narratives about the continent). Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire showed us chipper orphans in a development porn-esque version of India; much of the media westerners encounter of the global south is produced by white people, for white eyes, featuring white voices. [...]

  5. [...] recent post from the THD Blog [Fair Trade Photography Battles ‘Development Pornography’] really stuck in my gut. I do most of the design/marketing work for AIDG and the issue of how to [...]

  6. [...] Bir takım linkler: THD Blog – Fair trade photography battles development pornography [...]

  7. [...] 21st, 2007 at 11:02 am (Links) Check out this post on one of our tagged blogs, Technology, Health, and [...]

  8. This is an excellent point to bring up and one that is often not addressed. It is difficult for those who have biases and are also trying to do good to actually recognize those biases. The excuse is, “Well, I’m doing something good, aren’t I?” If the answer to that question is yes, it’s often difficult to admit that one might not be doing good in the right way. I think that the parallel with pornography is really apt. The images that often circulate make us see a spectacle, not human beings. Thanks for the post! It’s a great reminder.

    msoule

    May 21, 2007 at 9:00 am

  9. Srdjan,

    Nice find, thanks for sharing that with us. Chasing the Dream reminded me of the movie Born into Brothels. If you haven’t heard of it, check it out here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Born_into_Brothels

    Ben’s book recommendation can be found here:http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Star-Safari-Overland-Cairo/dp/0618134247

    Aman

    May 9, 2007 at 5:14 pm

  10. Take a look at the initiative organized by a UN Interagency Group and funded by the Government of Finland, addressing the Millennium Development Goals:

    Professional photojournalists organized a brief training in photography to young people around the world and invited them to document their own lives. The photographs are available online at http://www.chasingdream.org/views_intro.html. The young artists truly give the viewer an incredible perspective into their own lives.

    Enjoy,

    Srdjan Stakic
    Yale Center for Public Health Preparedness

    Srdjan Stakic

    May 9, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    • Images for Change: To Change Where We Live and How We Live

      Rubbles after the earthquake in Kashmir. „ Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majorityworld

      It was literally challenging to organise a photography exhibition on Fair Trade when many of us do not know how our clothes are produced, where does the cotton come from, what do the producers receive in return and why hundreds of cotton farmers in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra have committed suicide when their produce creates the fabric of the moment.

      We were left with no option other than picking up good photographs to show us the bad.

      Whenever discussions arise on ‘Trade and Development’ it reminds me of a lecture given by our very own Shahidul Alam, the architect of Drik and the designer of Majority World. In ‘Debunking the Expert Myth’ he says: “Experts determine our lives. They decide what we should wear, who we should have as partners, how many children we should have, who we should take loans from. They determine the very characteristics of a ‘civilised society’.” In times of ‘recession’ it is the same ‘civilised society’ that through strong advertising visuals sentimentally suggests us to develop ‘kissable skin’ and ‘designer skin’, even as the skin of most of us has already been turned into ‘leather that weathers’, victims in the era of ‘globalised games’.

      Here lies the challenge: to counter visuals goading us to develop fair and lovely designer skin with those of the realism of sufferings that is likely to ruthlessly confront ‘civilised society’ in the coming days. We no longer have the option to keep our eyes closed to issues of poverty, trade inequities, unmitigated greed and global warming.

      The contributing social and documentary photographers in this exhibition, as part of the civil society, have relentlessly been practicing the culture of human rights through their creations — images with power and strength, democratic in its right to inform and move us.

      The images in this exhibition move us, taking viewers beyond the suffering, encouraging them to understand the complex realities of the age. These realities can no longer allow us to say, ‘What to do, this will go on…’ or take refuge in indifference. Rather, the images speak about change, the change that will stir us enough to say: ‘THIS MUST STOP!’

      IMAGES FOR CHANGE is not a utopia, it is a progress….

      Suvendu Chatterjee/Drik India/Majority World

      * A note on ‘Majority World and Fair Trade of Images’ is on the third back cover of the catalogue which will be released on the inaugural day, 9 May by the noted personality Mahasweta Devi.

      Suvendu Chatterjee

      May 8, 2009 at 10:14 pm

  11. This issue is a recurrent theme is Theroux’s Dark Star Safari…

    Ben

    May 9, 2007 at 12:19 pm


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