Debating "Poverty Porn" Photographs

EthiopiaMomSon_LauraElizabethPohl The international development blog "Wait ... What?" has a nice summary of a recent Google Hangout debate on NGOs using pictures of emaciated children (aka "poverty porn") as a marketing and fundraising strategy. Daniel Ramirez-Raftree writes:

Poverty porn is effective as a means for raising funds because it elicits strong emotional responses. This can be a problem, however, because people are not necessarily driven to help or donate because of a comprehensive understanding of the actual work that’s being done, but rather by feelings of pity, sympathy, and guilt. Education systems in “the global North” don’t always teach students about the world as it exists in its entirety, they tend to rely on stereotypes that uniformly categorize “developing” countries around the world as poor, miserable, and disastrous. This sets the general public up to respond to marketing and advocacy campaigns that utilize poverty porn, and, in turn, the marketing strategy further reinforces the stereotype.

Most humanitarian photographers I know stay far away from the stereotypical sick/starving/war-torn/orphaned children pictures. But it's what many people in the West expect to see; it's usually a heart-rending and emotional picture and thus it's the "easy" photograph to publish. How can we change this?

Read the full "Wait ... What?" blog post.

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