“Exploiting the Poor Through the Images We Use?”

Posted 05 May 2010 — by davidc_7IF
Category Context and Analysis

On a World Bank blog – published by the Communication for Governance & Accountability Program (CommGAP) – Antonio Lambino has written two posts about how the majority world is pictured.

In the first post, Lambino writes:

News broadcasts, documentaries, and more recently, social media, often reduce developing countries into images of shanty towns, garbage dumps, denuded forests, dead coral reefs, and of course, people who have been beaten or killed through military and police brutality. Charitable fundraising efforts also use evocative images, from children suffering from cleft lip to those with distended bellies. Many have argued that these images take advantage of the poor and downtrodden, reify exclusion of subaltern groups, and raise awareness (and funds!) at the high cost of damaging the development process.

In the second post he deals with the question of “disaster pornography” recently raised by photographs from Sudan, which I have written about here.

It is interesting to see a World Bank official grappling with this issue. He concludes by stating:

it’s less about balance and more about emphasis – in the direction of favoring images that depict and help build capacity and efficacy at the local level.  We should, therefore, whenever possible, use images that influence opinion, attitude, and behavior change toward these ends.  Of course, the process of producing and selecting these images should be audience and context specific — but we can probably agree that poverty porn should be the rare exception to the rule.  Another thing we can do is to keep alive dialogue and debate on this topic and slowly replace the social norms, fundraising practices, and journalistic work routines that make poverty porn appear so lucrative and rewarding.