Perspectives of Poverty
May 29, 2010 10:42 AM   Subscribe

...The development sector, just like any other business, needs revenue to survive. Too frequently, this quest for funding uses these kind of dehumanizing images to draw pity, charity, and eventually donations from a largely unsuspecting public...

This is not to say that people do not struggle, far from it, but the photos I was seeing only told part of the story. I thought that these images were robbing people of their dignity, and I felt that the rest of the story should be told as well.

Duncan McNicholl, a Canadian volunteer with Engineers Without Borders, is embarking on a photography project in which he photographs low-income rural Malawians as they'd be seen by Westerners, and as they prefer to see themselves.
posted by emilyd22222 (18 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
That "serious" face on the second guy's "poor" photo cracks me up.
posted by mightygodking at 10:46 AM on May 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

This is very interesting - the "staging" of many images we see in the west becomes obvious - certainly people are poor, but they - like everyone are also people who laugh and play and their self-image is dramatically different from the "manufactured" images we see.

posted by jkaczor at 10:48 AM on May 29, 2010

This is great. Bauleni seems like a funny guy.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:50 AM on May 29, 2010

Man, that's a really nice umbrella. I prefer the image of him laughing with his umbrella.
posted by dabitch at 10:53 AM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

As a media consultant working for a development agency as a client, I am seeing a movement away from the boilerplate poverty photos. People want to see how their donations are spent, and they are tired of the 'wealthy country swoops in and saves the day' motif. In terms of fundraising, portraits that are beautiful, rustic and empowering have a much greater effect than those showing sad, vulnerable, tragic figures.
posted by sswiller at 10:57 AM on May 29, 2010 [5 favorites]

He has a newer set of photos, as well.

This is a great concept.
posted by whatnotever at 11:23 AM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

How to Write about Africa:

Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.
posted by mrducts at 11:43 AM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

This is awesome.
posted by AdamCSnider at 11:44 AM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

The EWB link should probably go to the Canadian chapter, as that is what is linked on the main link. Also, my cousin's husband is CEO of EWB Canada, and I just want to make sure his org. gets the credit due.
posted by yellowbinder at 12:14 PM on May 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

Those are great. I love the project.
posted by Forktine at 1:37 PM on May 29, 2010

Yes! I'd like to see the opposite as well. Pictures of people who are typically portrayed as "rich", and perspectives on how poor they really are.
posted by telstar at 2:09 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Found this great TED talk in the comments on the photo page, posted by Patrick.

Chimamanda Adichie on The Danger of a Single Story
posted by marsha56 at 2:24 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Fixed up the link.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:15 PM on May 29, 2010

I wonder what sort of photos of westerners would viscerally evoke feelings of pity and charity from third world residents?
posted by wobh at 6:10 PM on May 29, 2010


I think you'd be hard-pressed to find them.
posted by seagull.apollo at 6:39 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, read that kind of wrong. Some examples:

Kids crying.
People sleeping on the street.

(lots more)
posted by seagull.apollo at 6:50 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

It is easy to forget that the reason we focus so intently on our differences is because they are so rare and superficial in comparison to our similarities.
posted by Nothing at 9:18 PM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

These are great, thanks for posting.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:08 PM on May 29, 2010

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