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images of poverty

Exploiting the Poor Through the Images We Use?

Antonio Lambino's picture

Stereotypical images of the developing world include overpopulated and underserved urban slums, backward agricultural and fishing communities, environmental abuse and degradation, and political and social instability.  Although many of these portrayals are most certainly products of serious photojournalism or efforts to render explicit social ills around the world, numerous warnings have been issued against perpetuating these pictures in our heads and using them in development work, more generally.

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