"Images of poverty are the Congo’s most lucrative export"
February 5, 2014 5:33 PM Subscribe
What if poor people capitalized on their own natural resource, poverty?
posted by Ouisch (13 comments total)
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This is the central question of Renzo Martens' 2008 documentary, Episode III - Enjoy Poverty
, the second film in a triptych exploring power relations between photographers and their subjects.
"It's not the poor who benefit from this 'fight against poverty,' it's rich people." In the film, Martens sets out to train some of the impoverished people of the Democratic Republic of Congo to photograph and sell images of their own country's poverty and devastation
, images similar to the ones that foreign journalists visiting the region make their living by and receive awards for. Disturbingly, it seems that for the people living the experience, the supposed beneficiaries of anti-poverty efforts, there is no market for their images or stories. This exposes who those anti-poverty efforts are actually intended for: the audience.
On his own role in the film, Martens says
, "I am both the observer and the perpetrator of the African's exploitation. I can never be the savior or the emancipator because I am defined by the structures and institutions that exploit in the first place...The one with the camera will always exploit because of the power relations inherent to taking, distributing and selling images."
Portions of his first film, Episode I
, which explores the production and consumption of images of war in Chechnya, can be seen here
, along with his commentary.