Alessio Mamo and Poverty Porn…

Outraged!

Today I read an article that people are ‘outraged’ by another set of photos, and not mine this time. The images are of malnourished children standing in front of a table full of fake food. The series is titled ‘Dreaming of Food’. Here is the link.910It is easy to jump to the conclusion that this is ‘poverty porn’. But instead of just looking at the image and jumping on the bandwagon, lets look at the reason for the photo.

Despite economic growth, a majority of the Indian population still lives in extreme poverty and disease. Behind India’s new-found economic strength are 300 million poor people who live on less than $1 per day. Government figures may indicate a reduction in poverty. But the truth is, with increasing global food prices, poverty is spreading everywhere like a swarm of locusts. These pictures are taken in rural areas where conditions are worse than in the cities and where close to 70% of India’s population reside today. Statistics show that 2.1 million children under 5 years old die of malnutrition annually. The idea of this project was born after reading the statistics of how much food is thrown away in the West, especially during Christmas time. I brought with me a table and some fake food, and I told people to dream about some food that they would like to find on their table.

Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/BlimtuvnQ9S/?utm_source=ig_embed (25th July 2018)

It is clear from this statement, assuming it is genuine, that the intention behind these photos was to better humanity and highlight genuine humanitarian issues. The series is supported by both qualitative and quantitive data. However, people are not making complaints about the blatant unfairness of how food prices are affecting poverty – they are complaining about the photo. Somehow the point has been missed.

Photo by Alessio Mamo

Ethics

Secondly let’s read a little further instead of jumping to a half arsed conclusion while sipping our third morning latte (i’m actually on my fourth). What is the frame of reference from which these photos were captured?

Mamo clarified that the photos were not shot with the involvement of World Press Photo but with a local humanitarian organisation. To a flood of questions on whether the people in his photos had been fed at some point during the shoot, he said, “…All the people from the villages where we went had their food obviously. Actually, after we explained to them the idea they wanted to be photographed and be part of the project.”

Source: https://scroll.in/article/887654/poverty-porn-series-on-hunger-in-india-on-world-press-photos-instagram-account-prompts-outrage (25th July 2018)

Let me clarify, the people in these photos are hungry and not stupid. The work was undertaken with the aid of local humanitarian organisations. Ethical considerations were taken into account. Maybe people see a little too much of themselves when that analyse a photo? May be it is easier to be angered by a photo than have to think of what the image depicts?

There is however some a final caveats. These images are conceptual and not news. There is a clear argument that they do not have a place with the World’s Press Organisation, which is generally seen as a documentary and journalistic medium. This is a case of an image being posted in a wrong category; not a hanging offence. I also have some issue with the Guardians reporting, who state, ‘Mamo’s pictures have caused particular offence in India’. However, there appears to be no mention of this project in the Times of India and I can find scant evidence of offence in any other Indian newspaper or journal. Perhaps some of my Hindi speaking friends can help out!

As Ansel Adams stated “There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer”. We should take care when judging an image, maybe we are not just passing judgement on the photographer, but also on ourselves.

As always, I would love to hear your views!

Take Care and Keep Clicking, Chris

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