Thursday, July 6, 2017

PDN on Photographing Others’ Cultures with Sensitivity and Respect

Southern photographers are constantly challenged by ethical issues around whom, and for whom, they photograph people different from them in race, class, locale, or culture.

Shelby Lee Adams (see image above), for example, makes lots of his images among poor rural folks who live in Appalachia. 

Most of the people who see his images, however, are middle-class, urban folks interested enough in the arts to go to museums and galleries or to read university-based magazines about Southern culture. 

To some folks, Adams' work brings to our attention the basic humanity of his subjects and inspires political action to enhance the economic opportunities available to people who choose to live in rural parts of the USA.

To other folks, Adams' work exemplifies "poverty porn," exploiting the vulnerabilities of poor rural folks and appropriating their cultural choices to provide gallery-going urban folks the chance to feel smugly superior to the subjects of Adams' work. 

In the current issue of Photo District News, four photographers discuss these issues, based their own personal practice.

The feature is entitled "You’re Not from Around Here: Photographing Others’ Cultures with Sensitivity and Respect."

Featured photographers include the following:

Eirik Johnson on photographing portraits of the homeless. 

Jason Houston on Working with First Nations Communities.

Danielle Villasana on Capturing Portraits of Transgender Women

Tasneem Alsultan on Photographing Everyday Life in Saudi Arabia

All these folks believe their work among the "other" is important work, so they are in favor of doing it, but their discussions about how they came to terms with their practice are helpful, challenging, and often provocative.

Well worth the attention of the Southern Photographer!

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