In 5 Reasons poverty porn empowers the wrong person, Emily Roenigk addresses “the objectification and exploitation of human beings in the media”. Emily argues that journalists and organizations purposefully use disturbing images in order to evoke deep emotions from the audience as a means to get monetary donations. We as a society seem to have an odd fascination with destruction — this is why images of post-tsunami damage and families grieving victims of shootings are so popular in the news.
I agree with Emily that in most situations, footage of poor and underprivileged people get used as a means to an end of more donations. However, there are ways in which we can use footage to inspire and share a story without exploitation. Here are two of my favorite examples:
1. Domestic Violence PSA (warning: disturbing footage)
In the preceding video, the National Domestic Violence Hotline uses a short and extremely powerful video of a woman appearing physically hurt over and over again. While the content is disturbing, the lady in the video is an actress, and the video is made as a PSA, to spread the word of an available 24/7 hotline for victims to call.
2. Humans of New York
On his Instagram account, Brandon shares pictures and stories of random New Yorkers he meets on the streets.. In the photos above, Brandon interviews a couple a few people in a very poor part of Pakistan. Each person interviewed and photographed is told ahead of time what the footage is for, and some agree to the interview but decline the photo. This series of Brandon’s is extremely popular, as it helps us all relate to one another and realize that we’re all just human.
It is possible to use images of the poor and underprivileged without taking advantage of them. The main thing to remember is your intention — why do you want to share this story? Who will directly benefit?