Tuesday 12 June 2007

Development pornography

What is development pornography? I don't want you to get the wrong idea, DvP is pictures that are shocking, pull on your shamelessly pull on your heartstrings and often, as Reuters puts it, “still perpetuate a colonial idea of incapable Africans waiting passively for help from their white saviours”. This obviously doesn't just apply to Africans but to folks from all developing nations.

His name is Brandon. This picture was taken by AIDG, AIDG had installed a biodigester at the orrphanage and in summer 2005 visited to check on it, they took this photo.
What is it about the pic makes me feel a bit … you know… manipulative? It’s the fact that he is a this super-cute dewey-eyed earnest-looking kid. It also makes me feel a bit naughty because but just as “Sex sells” in advertising, I know kiddies sell in development. A big reason is that when I think of “sustainable future”, all I can think of is children either reaping the benefits or suffering the consequences of our decisions today. Yeah, it’s not a particularly innovative association.

“Upwards of 90% of the images of the majority world that are seen in the western media are produced by white photographers from the USA or Europe. This results in a one dimensional view often driven by a negative news agenda or the need to raise money.”

It does beg the question as to whether a lot of what is now considered DvP is related to general laziness. Photo-editors and marketers are just falling back of easy associations to get their point across, wringing every last dollar out of imagery of the long-suffering developing country person until donors stop responding. They are failing to realize or underestimating the negative impact that the repetition of this type of imagery can have. When someone says Ethiopia, the first image in most peopls minds is famine. Despite their tireless work, many NGOs have done their target populations a serious disservice by leaving their donors with a similar knee-jerk association.


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