Digital Media Prompt Due Tuesday by 5pm

Explore the follow webpage and photographs. (View the photographs first and then click on the photograph to learn more about the story.)

Please comment on how each photographer works to conceptualize and represent their notion of poverty.

“Here is our contribution – a collection of images taken to highlight poverty from around our globe. Click the images to be taken to the Flickr pages of the photographer and to learn more about the story behind the faces you see.”

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24 Responses to Digital Media Prompt Due Tuesday by 5pm

  1. Elana says:

    The photographers work to conceptualize poverty by focusing on the individual stories of their subjects. From the picture of the blonde girl to the picture of Manea, each photo told a story that encapsulated poverty in an abstract way. Some captions were longer than others. Some had background information while others jumped to the conclusion. However, no matter how the photo was framed, each one left a striking message. What struck me most was that each story did not focus on the negativity of the subjects’ lives. Rather, each caption had a hint of hope and happiness. This just comes to show that no matter one’s level in life, one can always find something to be grateful for.

    • dauneobrien3 says:

      Would you say that the story being told was the photographer’s interpretation of “poverty” or accurately depicts poverty? What types of “messages” did you take away from the photos?

  2. knkern94 says:

    These photographers work to develop their notion of poverty by focusing their photo around a specific feature of the subject or by including a caption that specifically tells the subject’s story. Some of the photos only have titles or extremely short captions, but the point is still put across by the specific feature highlighted in the photograph whether it be the color of somebody’s eyes, the physical body part (pregnant belly, missing foot), or the expression held on their face. Even though the expressions could read one emotion, the caption pulls in another. The first little boy is smiling yet his caption talks about how poor he is or like Elana said the picture is extremely depressing but the caption yields some hope. Some of the captions even show that the photo holds a purpose like supporting the HIV/AIDS orphans in Africa or saving a woman’s house before her newborn arives. This shows how emotionally attached a photographer can get with their images and let you know that these are not exploitation photos of the homeless and poor. Also, my favorite was the story of the man and his $2 portrait mission! That’s legit.

    • dauneobrien3 says:

      I think you are smart to consider the emotional attachment of the photographer and it’s interesting that you describe the photographs as “their notion”—-meaning the photographers–not the subject…

  3. The different notions of poverty I see presented are that:
    1. impoverished people are happy despite their circumstances
    2. impoverished people are spiteful
    3. impoverished people cling to their faith
    4. impoverished people are still human
    5. impoverished people are overlooked by others

    Photographers work to represent their notions of photography through the processes they take to obtain the pictures. Some interact with the homeless. Some observe from afar. Some have taken many photos that they can look through and choose from. Some only took one.

    Interacting with the homeless makes their subjects appear more human, with names and stories. Not interacting with their subjects makes the portrayals as pathetic objects. Taking multiple photos would give the photographer more influence over how he or she wanted to represent the individual, whereas taking one picture would better capture the individual as they actually are.

    • dauneobrien3 says:

      Very perceptive observations. I agree with your suggestion that having multiple selections of photographs gives the photography more angles in which to tell his story. This is an interesting point to consider as we explore the authenticity of photography as true representations of trauma.

  4. joezim1994 says:

    It seems that photographing people in dire situations is a risky ordeal. A photographer could come off either as not doing enough (such as the man that did not give food to a homeless man, but did take his picture) or it could seem like they are twisting what is photographed in order to receive the maximum amount of attention (the caption “I can take care of you… but who will take care of me?” is almost reminiscent of the calculated captions of “You Have Seen Their Faces”). Yet at the same time, it seems like many sincerely try to capture poverty in photography without exploiting it. For instance, the photographer who aims to give $2 to any poor person asking for money in exchange for a change to take a portrait of them seems to genuinely care about “celebrating other human beings” rather than “exploiting homeless people or show how hard and bad life can be”. Many of these photographers want to capture images of the homeless at either their most hopeful (children smiling in spite of it all) or at their most destitute (the starving man outside McDonald’s). It is possible for photographers to, indeed, celebrate life, but there is a thin line between celebration and voyeurism. To be a photographer means to always struggle along this line.

  5. The exhibited photographers take images, which in their minds portray poverty, in specific settings to express their own notions towards poverty. The blog’s images as a whole offer a variety of visions of poverty, from cheerful but distinctly impoverished people to bleak and desolate scenes of pain and hunger. It is the circumstance that they choose to document, the moment the photographer chooses to exhibition, that separates all these images. In the practice of taking hundreds of photographs, these photographers select the few that portray the message and emotions they which to convey.

    The smiling child from Brazil lives in poverty as much as the other subjects in the other photographs, but the author of this image chose to present the moment in which he was joyful, perhaps commenting on the innocence of the child or the range of experiences human beings are subject to in general. This same photographer also shows poor children looking solemn or in moments of curiosity. The photographers take the whole realm the concept of poverty and pick out an individual moment whose relationship to its overall theme, whether complimentary or conflicting, works to portray a message or at least create discourse.

    Another aspect to consider in how the photographers convey their notions of poverty is how their images work when labeled as subjects of poverty. Many of the images in the blog are not blatant depictions of poverty but instead portraits of various people. By posting them or having the photographs posted in a blog about raising awareness of poverty, they direct any reactions yielded by these images towards their cause.

    • dauneobrien3 says:

      This is an excellent reading of the project and points to the distinct line between fact and fiction. I especially appreciate how you point the way in which the photographs are labeled and the potential impact that the label might have on a photograph that would not be considered (in the traditional sense) a depiction of poverty. It also raises the question about dissonance and deliberate contradiction. Was this a planned part of the photographer’s visual rhetoric?

  6. What I find the most interesting is the range of textual accompaniments to each image. Some images come with text asking the viewer to donate to the cause. Some come with a diatribe on what can or should be done for the poor. Some come with only a line or two about the subject of the photograph and/or the photographer’s opinion on the subject. And some photographs come with no text at all. I think it is natural for the observer to want to know more about the subject of the photographs. But I think that for these photographs no textual accompaniment is the best way to present these photographs. People living in poverty rarely have a voice in our society, and filtering their voices through the photographer’s captions seems disingenuous to the people in the photographs. Since they cannot speak for themselves, no one else should either and the photographs should simply speak for themselves. I found the photographs with no captions the most engrossing and was invariably let down when the text quashed my imagination as to what was going on in each photograph.

  7. Emily Schweich says:

    These photographers have captured many faces of poverty – desperation, faith, love and service to combat poverty. The use of photography to document poverty is a risky one – there are many fine lines that the photographer must consider.

    Often, photographers face criticism for taking photographs of the poor without helping them. Yet giving to the homeless directly might not be the best solution. As the photographer of “Famished,” said, “He had this look that I didn’t find too comfortable.”

    Sometimes it seems more beneficial to aid the homeless through an organization, as the photographer of “Half a million views today” encourages. However, it’s important to use care when selecting what photograph is the “face” of such an organization and to be careful not to be voyeuristic.

    Some photographs with brief captions or no captions at all speak for themselves, such as “Man Walking By” and “Smiling Poverty.” The faces of the individuals captured speak for themselves. However, I wonder to what degree these photographs raise awareness and to what degree they foster a false sense of empathy. We discussed in class how the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs displayed in the Newseum often bestowed upon viewers a false sense of compassion or service for the people in the photograph. Like the Kony video that went viral last spring, these photographs might raise awareness for a cause, but it is uncertain how much they inspire viewers to take action.

    There is a delicate balance that photographers must maintain when documenting poverty. I believe that it’s important to maintain the dignity of the subject photographed and to ensure that the photographs are used with integrity, however they may be shared.

  8. alangdon93 says:

    On my first look through the photographs I noticed that the photagraphers seemed to have focused on two major aspects: the eyes and the dirt.

    The eyes can tell a story of the range of human emotions from childhood innocence, the resilience of the human spirit in poverty, the lowest point of the human spirit in poverty, and even the conflict between giving up and going on. Humans communicate a lot through their eyes. Thus, these photographers wanted to catch what the people were communicating that could be captured by the camera, which is the expression of the subject’s eyes.

    In some photo’s a tension existed between the dirt and the eyes. For example hopeful eyes on a dirty and worn out face. The tension sometimes inspires admiration from the spectator of the hope in tragic situations. In other photographs the dirt complemented the dreary or seemingly hollow eyes.

    The caption seems like only a place for the photographer to add information they deem important: their motives, their mission, extra information, and a lens to view the picture, their lens to be exact. However, for most, their picture alone tells the majority of their subject’s story without a caption.

  9. Ross Fasman says:

    The most poignant image/caption was the Brazilian boy with the ski hat and facial scar. The caption provides information about Brazil’s poverty stricken social structure. It highlights the gluttony of the politicians and the suffering of the large impoverished social class. It also helps promote a non-for-profit organization: “At CARF, we believe in the impossible. We believe that there are future productive citizens in every street child and lucky for us, our many existing supporters also believe in our capability to implement positive social change. Hopefully some of those 500.000 views will bring new supporters of our actions”

    As for the photograph, the boy looks visibly dirty. He also has a scar and deep brown eyes- which together calls to learn of his story and what he has seen and experienced. While he looks malnourished and skinny, he also has life and looks vigorously youthful, which was elucidated by the close-up photography.

    However, the concluding words of the text, combined with the face of the young boy helps “conceptualize and represent their (photographer’s) notion of poverty”. It says “It is in deepest regret and sadness that I inform you of Roney’s cold-blooded murder on the early morning hours of January 15th. May he find peace wherever his journey has taken him…….” It is unclear whether the boy photographed is Roney; however, by providing a photograph of a child’s face, we can easily associate death with this young boy and that hints at the story of poverty that the photographer wanted to get across.

  10. This collection of photographers had very similar approaches in representing their idea of poverty. Many of the photographers seemed to focus on the facial expressions of the people they were photographing. The majority are close-ups of their faces, often with eyes looking straight into the camera. This common stylistic choice may have been a result of the photographers’ desire to convey the humanity of these people, which can most easily be done through showing their emotions through facial expressions. It was interesting to see the variation in which photographers relied more on the text of the captions to convey their message, and which ones had simply a phrase or two as their caption, relying on the image alone to tell the story. I noticed that with many of the images with longer captions, the text served to describe a cause or encourage donations, aiding the people depicted in the photograph. It could be argued that the images with less or no text have the ability to stand on their own, and are thus more powerful. I did not find a connection there, however with this set of photographs, I would say that the captions do not add significantly to the images, but they may provide a stronger motivation for a viewer to take action against poverty.

  11. Each of these photographs show someone who is impoverished, however, each photographer takes a different approach. Some, like CARF and HORIZON, took close-ups of their faces to show the dirt embedded in their skin and the pain in their eyes. Many of the photographers also used children as subjects to emphasize the contrast between innocence and harsh reality of poverty. The environment where the photograph was taken also plays a large part in conveying the notions of poverty. Sailing photographed a man sleeping on the ground surrounded by the few possessions he has and protected by an umbrella. Other photographers used subway stations or a public library, and one even used a pile of empty bottles as the backdrop. The photographers also included at least a title for the photograph, and sometimes a caption explaining the circumstances of the person in the photograph. With these captions and titles, we are better able to understand poverty.

  12. shulamitshroder says:

    There were five photographs attributed to the Children at Risk Foundation. CARF’s pictures were all of children (not surprisingly), but they did not focus on the subjects of their pictures at all. The subjects were either representative of some terrible wrong that needs to be fixed, like the photographs of the street child and the pregnant single mother and her child, or of children smiling. The pictures were all beautiful, even when they were purporting to be telling the story of something awful. The captions underneath the photos also generally did not inform the viewer about the specific story of the subjects but rather went off on the tangent of child poverty, without telling us about the people pictured.
    The two pictures taken by Ronn Aldaman were similar in that they both showed men in vulnerable positions – on the street and dependent upon others to survive. For one picture, the photographer mostly lets the photo “speak for itself” by only captioning it “Life in the street – Bangkok.” For the other, he translates what the man has written on his posters. His approach, like CARF’s, is also exploitative, as he takes a picture of a man while he is sleeping and he tries to make one man symbolic of all life on the street, especially Bangkok.
    Mick Yates took one picture, of a nun and a child. It is visually striking, like all the other pictures on this page. This photo’s caption, like those taken by CARF, has an agenda to push. Its gushing enthusiasm for the orphanage, along with the bright, vivid colors in the image, imply that this is a happy place, even though it is populated by children whose parents have died from HIV/AIDS.
    Thomas Hawk’s picture of a homeless man is the only picture whose caption tells us a good portion of his life story, even though much of the text is taken up by the photographer writing about his latest adventures. This makes the theme of poverty resonate more, because this is a picture of a man, not a symbol.
    Alex Bath’s picture of a man outside a public library was sad, but it was also so aesthetically appealing that the beauty of the photograph detracted from the terrible poverty it depicted.
    HORIZON’s photograph of a man with milky, maybe blind eyes was accompanied by a conversation held between the photographer and the man. This made the man appear more normal, like a real person and not just someone who maybe exists in some place. By putting that conversation underneath the picture, the photographer manages to bring home the message that poor people are people, too, with the same desire for dignity as everyone else.
    Jimmy Hilario’s photo of a beggar girl was very similar to those taken by CARF, except that it was not as beautiful. The caption did the same thing to its subject as CARF’s did, too – it reduced her to a symbol.
    Jim Fischer’s picture of a homeless man in Tokyo zoomed in on the man’s feet to show the viewers their lack of shoes or socks. The photographer takes this picture while the man is sleeping and also turns him into a representative of all homeless people in Tokyo, thus exploiting the man in two manners.
    Zerone Eric Ouano’s photo of an emaciated man is the most painful of the pictures to view, because the hunger and desperation of the man is evident. This pushes the viewer further into the realm of voyeurism, especially when one learns that the photographer was ordering from McDonald’s while watching him and decided not to share with him.
    Magnetomotive’s image of three men sitting on a subway bench comes across as especially manipulated, since there is a link to the original, uncropped picture. The original photo is more powerful because it shows the other people in the station ignoring the men on the bench.
    PJOnori’s picture of a man walking does not seem to be addressing poverty at all, though. After all, just because he has a beard does not automatically mean that he is homeless.
    Finally, Trey Ratcliffe’s picture of a man and his belongings is accompanied by text explaining what the man wants – simple, intangible things, not more money. It does not come across as exploitative.

  13. sjfrazier015 says:

    What I noticed the most about the way these photographs were presented was in the captions and the descriptions given below the photographs. In class we have discussed many different methods that photographers and photo narrative co-writers use to express the message of a photo narrative or an individual photograph. Like collections such as FSA sponsored photo project, many of the photographers express the need for aid to the people being depicted by creating charities on their behalf, such as the photo of Christopher and the $2 portrait project. Other photographers gave details of the scenario in which the photo was taken that you would not know if you had only seen the photograph. For example, in the book “Another Way of Telling” the photographer almost always gives a background story to his photos. This is seen in the photograph of the old man that collects bread. And still in other photographs, a simple when and where is given, and nothing more. The best way we can see this in class was in Bathes work in which he did not give us much detail into the photos themselves, although he did give much of his own commentary on hat he saw in the photo. This can be seen in the photograph of the men in the Subway station. All of these methods, though different both convey the stories of the photographs but also shows the purpose for display that the authors have. They may want to raise awareness, start a relief program, or simply make the lives of others mainstream to our world. I can only say for sure that although different, each method is in itself, uniquely successful.

  14. Many of these photographs had very similar concepts on sharing poverty. Some focused on the sheer look of pleasure on the less fortunate, like Carf and Horizon, while others focused on the sheer hopelessness of the situation like Sailing “Footprints: Real to Reel” and Thomas Hawk. Others still focused on the humanity within such a hard place to be situated. Like JimFishcher and magnetomotive. There seems that some photographers also sought to make emotional appeals by having captions and even short biographies of the subject in the photograph. While others wanted only for the photograph to speak for itself. Though many of those in poverty had hard faces to go with their hardships, there was still a capacity for happiness, which shows the true spirit within their being. There seems that there is even a sense that one cannot break away from the fundamental habits of humanity, even when faced with the harshest of circumstances. Many do not ask for more than they need, like Christopher who only wanted 2.15 for a hamburger.

  15. esrayagoub says:

    The first thing I noticed about all the pictures is that they have people in them. There isn’t a single picture of a rundown neighborhood of a pile of blankets on a cold sidewalk. Also the majority of the images show people’s expressions. I think this was done so that the spectator could feel the same emotions as those living in poverty rather than just showing conditions of poverty.

    The expressions portrayed didn’t show the characteristics that I usually associate with poverty. The juxtaposition of hope and the notion of poverty was especially powerful in a few of the images. In the photo by Carf the women and the little boy look excited because there is a new life that will soon enter the world. They don’t seem bothered by the fact that they may be unable to feed or cloth themselves. For me, the image showed the notion of family, it was barely even about poverty.

    Another image by Carf features a young boy playing with a dog. The image makes poverty seem less distant. The little boy actions are so normal. The photo by Thomas Hawk of the man praying has a similar impact. Ultimately as whole the images describe poverty as the background. Regardless of the conditions they live in the subjects of the images have faith, hope, ambition, and loving relationships. The images make those factors overshadow the notion of poverty.

  16. Although all of the photographers are taking pictures of the same theme, (poverty) there are some photographers that seem to take a different approach on how to represent the people. A photographer that especially caught my eye with his photos is Carf. Most of these photos that are displayed here give a sense of mystery. About three of his photos are close ups to the subject’s face. This leads to the question: Would we know these people are poor if it didn’t say they were? It seems as though Carf’s intention may to show the viewers that being poor does not change someone from being human like everyone else. Another photo of his is of a pregnant mother and a smiling boy next to her. In this photo, it is also hard to tell just from the image if they are poor.

    In contrast to many of Carf’s photos, other people’s approach seem to be to take pictures of the subject in vile or desperate situations. These photographer’s vision may be to be more informative as to the kind of environment that many people in poverty live in. Also, many of them are in black and white which can elicit the feeling of mourning or bleakness.

    I think that it is good that many of these photographer showed a different light one the people. Often times when one thinks of the poor, there is a highly negative connotation to it in which someone may imagine a dirty, senile, or emaciated person. However, it does need to be shown that people who are in poverty are equals to those who are rich. Not in terms of wealth but in terms of their value. Many of these photographers took images that have a positive aspect. While many, show the darker side of poverty, which does need to be shown if one would like to know more of the whole truth.

  17. shjones says:

    What strikes me about the pictures is the singular distinction between which different demographics are portrayed. For example, the only way to tell many of the caucasian subject are impoverished are through their clothing or lack thereof. Many subjects from other cultures have been captured in different poses that represent their condition. They are sprawled out, huddled in a ball or trying to stay warm. Others portray the image of poverty only because of the image that has been popularized as such. For example, the picture with the pregnant woman and the boy shows no real signs of poverty, but in America we have often come to associate bare wood and pregnant foreign women with it. To be sure, there are common themes that unite all the pictures. The primary one is the dirt that can be seen on the bodies and clothes of the subjects. In addition, many are characterized by wide, almost listless eyes. The different photographer’s conceptions of poverty is largely composed of their perception of different cultures in relation to their own.

  18. maxinesrich says:

    The photographers, many of them driven by a desire to photograph people in poverty, attempt to communicate their view of poverty through their photographs. What I found interesting is that, had it not been for the descriptions and the title of the page, I would not have recognized that several of the subjects, namely the blonde girl and the first young boy, were focused on their poverty. I have realized that I do not often think of the poverty of young children, but the poverty that I blatantly encounter most often, which is the poverty of dirty, older men in America. This is what I see most in real life. I realize that my viewing of photography in this instance has been completely influenced by my understanding of the world through my experiences, and the images that fit in with this understanding.

    I was also very struck by the story and the photograph of the man who was given $2.15 for his portrait. Not only is it an intriguing idea, for the photographer to exchange $2 for a portrait, but also the man’s hands, clearly very dirty, in a prayer position. I found this contrast of his dirt and religion both ironic and moving.

  19. megmck12 says:

    There are two distinct conceptions of poverty that strike me in this collection. One is happiness in the face of poverty. The timid smiles displayed by some of the child subjects and the obvious joy of the pregnant woman demonstrates this conception to me. The second conception is one of the despair created by living in poverty. The young man holding himself like his body is his only anchor to this world and the image of the young maimed man sleeping on the side walk highlights the despair of the second conception of poverty.

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