It gives clear info combined with personal stories. Not perfect but certainly better than the Guardian/Oxfam offering. Check out other pieces by UNICEF on the same issue such as this photo essay.
Photographer Andy Hall went to Pakistan for Oxfam to take photos of the floods six months on (published in the Guardian UK). Nice light. But that is about it. What about a Pakistani photographer? Or South Asian? Or a woman? Relevant? Well, yes. After all it is evident that they were denied good access because those who went were men. And they can tells us little about Pakistan it seems. We hear the photographer but never those pictured. In fact, we learn very little about peoples lives and how they are coping. Instead, we get told malnutrition stats and a series of pics people in camps accompanied by a Qawwali sound track. This is 3 mins 27 secs of frustration as it skims over the top of multiple layers of complex lives, never able to deliver to us anything close to empathy or insight. Disappointing.
This piece on the Oxfam UK website provides a bit more info on people’s lives but reads a bit like an extended appeal.
I like Media Storm, in that they are slick and appear to know what they are doing. There have also been a couple of pieces on their website that I rather liked (particularly ‘Love in the First Person‘ and ‘Undesired‘). As such I always look forward to viewing a new batch of material produced by them. So, barely into 2011 a few new pieces appear.
‘How Will We Feed Them?‘ was produced for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a UN agency. It focusses on a family in Madagascar who were assisted by an IFAD funded organisation, the Rural Income Promotion Programme. All well and good. We are given (very brief) context on the country and the situation of the family. We hear from the family (though the narration tends to dominate). However, I have two problems with the piece. One, is that Media Storm appear to have flown in Brad Horn to shoot it (he is even the narrator). No local talent available? As such the piece feels like a CNN product, and the barriers between the camera and subjects never really breaks down. Not that I advocate always using local professionals, but just to put it out there.
My second quibble is the content of the piece. The people of Madagascar are immediately defined as ‘poor’ – all of them? OK, I accept the need to simplify, but the central proposition of the film seems flawed – that a growing world population combined with a migration trend from rural to urban areas means ‘we’ will not be able to feed ourselves (the line ‘how will we feed them’ makes me think of the rich word suddenly having the poor turn up for dinner and wondering if there is enough to go round?). Surely wrong? Whether the world can feed itself is down to the amount of land given over to food production and the productivity of the land due to fertility and inputs (not to mention cutting down wastage by having better storage and transportation systems). Whether there are more or less people farming is not really the issue, or at least not the only factor (after all in most developed countries only a small proportion of the population are involved in farming yet they have managed to avoid mass starvation). And this comes out in the film – the family featured become better off due to improved inputs – better seeds. Surely, it would have been better to focus on how to make small holders (subsistent farmers) more productive so they can feed themselves, rather than extrapolate this problem up to feeding the whole world? There is a whole debate about the productivity of land holding side, inputs etc. that I am sure they didn’t want to get into. But the idea that the historic tide of people moving from rural to urban areas will be addressed by giving them better seeds seems naive. This is again demonstrated in the film, where the extra cash made by the family (due to the better seeds) is used to educate the daughter – who will then likely want to use that education to get a good job…in the city! Anyway, I digress.
This is a more compelling piece, putting forward a more complex picture with multiple voices. Personally, I would like to have heard more from the tribes people (rather too many still shots that added little information about their daily existence towards the end of the piece). Again, like the first piece the photographer has been jetted in (Evan Abramson). Media Storm regularly run multi-media workshops, which makes me wonder if they do or could invite photographers from developing countries to take part (providing a grant scheme to cover their costs)? Using US based photographers is surely not the future (especially when you are doing pieces about climate change yet your photographers carbon foot print is bigger than necessary).
This is a rather snazzy product consisting of text, images and video (including interviews). It is full of information, and I spent a good length of time surfing the site. However, it is not immediately clear who the audience is? If you didn’t know anything about Pakistan it would be a good intro, compiling historic and contemporary stats and facts. But if you know a bit about South Asia it does not add too much that you would not already know – certainly you would expect investors and governments to be briefed on this kind of stuff already. Good format though.
Between 21 January and 11 April Whitechapel Gallery in London is hosting the photographic exhibition ‘Where Three Dreams Cross‘. The exhibition present photographs documenting the three countries from 1860 to the present day, with 300 works by 70 photographers and artists.
The grant aims to support photographers from Central Asia, the Caucasus, Afghanistan and Pakistan documenting issues of social justice and human rights. Full list of winners here.
The human rights violation of ‘disappearances’ has attracted a great deal of photographic interest and work. To mark the International Day of the Disappeared (30 August) here is a small selection of photographic work on the issue.
Marcelo Brodsky’s ‘Buena Memoria‘ – on returning to Argentina Brodsky organised a 25th anniversary reunion of his class mates at Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires. Based around a massive blow-up of an original class photo he went about making portraits of the class. With so many disappeared he looked to represent them as a memorial to what had happened.
Paula Allen’s ‘The Women of Calama‘ – a long term project working looking at the search for those ‘disappeared’ during the Pinochet regime.
Brent Foster’s ‘Kashmir’s Half Widows’ – Foster’s work looks at the estimated 2000-6000 women left behind after their husbands were ‘disappeared’ in the disputed territory of Kashmir.
Susan Meiselas ‘Disappeared Women of Juarez‘
‘Documenting Disappearances – Algeria, state terrorism and the photographic image‘ – featuring Omar D’s book (commissioned and edited by Autograph ABP) of photographs, ‘Devoir de memoire / a Biography of Disappearance, Algeria 1992-’. Also featured on Flickr.
International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances ‘Existence Denied‘ – photo book produced for the 25th anniversary of the International Day of the Disappeared.
ICRC’s ‘Missing Persons in Nepal‘ – photos by K. Kayastha commissioned by the International Committee of the Red Cross documenting the impact of losing a family member to ‘disappearances’.
Filed under: Art, Photography | Tagged: Algeria, Americas, Argentina, Asia, Central America, Chile, disappearances, Kashmir, Mexico, Middle East&North Africa, Nepal, Pakistan, photographers, South America, South Asia | Leave a Comment »
Following on from my article on Raghu Rai’s photos of the Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal it is worth checking out the Greenpeace Photo Essay webpage. The photo essays are a mix, combining evidential images – basically an investigatory documentation approach to support their claims – and ‘witnessing’ documentary photography – either illustrating the beauty of nature or its destruction.
This essay ‘Following the e-waste trail’ – takes a very ‘evidential’ visual approach with an investigative selection of images, combined with Google Maps showing the tracking of the waste. There is the option at the end to embed the slide show in your own webpage.
‘Scraplife – e-waste in Pakistan’ takes a more traditional multi-media approach, using still photos by professional photographer Robert Knoth in combination with commentary and audio sound track. Focus is on individuals involved in recycling toxic substances.