“NGOs come to the village here to take pictures of people. At church, at the market, on the road, at meetings. Only people who are dressed poorly.”
That’s what Edward Kabzela of Malawi said – and he’s not alone. Whether I’m traveling to Kakamega in Kenya, a rural village in Bangladesh, or a local food bank in Los Angeles – everybody hates being portrayed as poor and needy.
I’ve been inspired to write about this again because I just stumbled across this blog post by a fellow Canadian by the name of Duncan McNicholl. As Duncan puts it – in many respects – charities are like a business.
For a charity, their “revenue” is your donation dollars. And most of them think that the best way to get your donation dollars is by portraying the poor as objects of pity. They’d rather show you a picture like this:
Instead of a picture like this:
It still surprises me how many people, charities, and organizations still don’t get it. In fact, I’ve debated this with good friends of mine – some suggesting my portrayal of poverty is overly cheerful and glossy (with the exception of stuff involving disasters).
But my rebuttal is this: I’m only allowed to portray those I film & photograph as they wish to be filmed & photographed. Sometimes, especially during disasters, they want me to capture their sorrow. But, most of the time, the poor may want our help – but they don’t want our pity.