Debating "Poverty Porn" Photographs

Debating "Poverty Porn" Photographs

***Hello! Crystaline and I are gone for the summer, relaxing and working on some cool new stuff for all you. While we're away, we're sharing our most popular posts. We look forward to seeing you again in August.*** Reposted from July 2013:

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.

Photo caption: Haymanot Aimro prepares to feed supper to her nine-month-old son Bokallu Mosfon in Guraghe zone, Sodoo district, Kela kabele, Ethiopia. Earlier in the day, Bokallu received his last of nine mandatory childhood vaccinations, an event memorialized with a certificate from the local health center. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl for Catholic Relief Services

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