Selling poverty (Photography Part 3/6)

In our previous post, we talked about the danger of a single image and how painting a people with a single brush stroke  can dehumanize and alienate them.  What happens when our only story of Haiti is one of poverty?

But then again, what about the poverty?  Doesn’t that story need to be told too? (To my friends, my family, my donors???

They haven’t seen what I’ve seen, they don’t know the need.)

Here’s what I think: Images of poverty are an easy sell.

Life can be hard and it can be ugly, but life in Haiti is not only those things.  We need to be selective about the images we share as part of the story we tell about Haiti because what we see creates the framework for our larger perspective.

Tara Livesay, who has been living and working with her family in Haiti for more than 8 years, once shared the following story on her personal blog

Screen shot 2014-11-06 at 1.03.39 PM

[Tara writes about this with absolute honesty and just the right amount of humor, click here to see her full post!]

Photos are powerful because we tend to remember images.  And here’s the thing: pictures of poverty only reinforce an expectation of poverty.  Sharing photos of misery and hardship with your organization, friends, family and donors inspires very little real hope because it relies primarily on pity to get them to invest fiscally or emotionally in Haiti, and that’s not what the country needs.

We need to make a change in the way we ask people to invest in Haiti, one that doesn’t limit their perception of Haiti to a single image of poverty.

What if our view of Haiti (based on the pictures we took) was more in line with the way Haitians see themselves?

How would we see Haiti if we didn’t start every conversation with the word “poor”?  If the first image that came to mind wasn’t always refuse floating down flooded, crowded streets?  It’s there, we know that already, Haitian citizens know that already, but they also know that there is so much more to their country and maybe it’s time we started turning our cameras towards that.

Check out the following instagram accounts of two women working to change the way outsiders view Haiti:

by Erin Nguyen on November 6, 2014


Read part 4 of the HaitiHub Photography Series: Who’s telling whose story?
Read our interview with FotoKonbit co-found Marie Arago: Part 4 Continued

One thought on “Selling poverty (Photography Part 3/6)

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