POVERTY PORN VERSUS DELIBERATE POSITIVSM

Humanitarian appeals play an important part in our society, we are surrounded by appeals be it on social media, television, newspapers, etc. The choice of photographs used by NGO’s impact the public differently, yet the intended outcome is still the same – to evoke emotions which encourage life-changing donations. The subject matter may be portrayed with positive (deliberate positivism), or negative (poverty porn), focus and there are pros and cons of both options.

POVERTY PORN

PovertyPorn

http://www.humanosphere.org/basics/2013/05/is-social-media-the-cure-to-poverty-porn/#prettyPhoto/0/

The main aim of Poverty Porn is to focus on the suffering, in the hopes of shocking us into giving aid. The two emotions that encourage us into aiding are “guilt and fear” (E.J Dyke; G Coldevin).

This first image was taken by Kevin Carter, a South African journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography in 1994. His images raised a lot of money for NGOs and relief agencies. In this image we can see perfectly what Poverty Porn is all about, we see a young girl’s body in an extreme state of starvation, too weak to even move. She is completely vulnerable to the Vulture eyeing her up. Her body is completely exposed; we can see her ribs and her tiny, frail little arms and legs. She is also exposed in the sense that she is not wearing any clothes another way to illustrate the poverty she is faced with. Her being a young child is more impactful as she can be described as innocent, not corrupted by the world.

The use of Poverty Porn is not without disadvantages. It focuses on negative stereotypes, rather than specific individuals, creating a dehumanisation effect where the victims do not have a voice or a face. We also become desensitized by these negative images due to repetition, which creates compassion fatigue. Used over time, with no improvements seen, the “shock affect declines with repetition” also known as “psychological numbing” (J Cameron; A Haanstra). Due to these criticisms, deliberate positivism replaced poverty porn.

DELIBERATE POSITIVISM

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

http://e-activist.com/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1747&ea.campaign.id=36308

Deliberate positivism first appeared in 1989 after the Code of Conduct was introduced. It outlined what images can be used to encourage the public to give aid and to stop the media from exaggerating. The main aim of deliberate positivism is to focus on the success stories, and this is done by portraying smiling individuals who have benefitted from aid. Poverty Porn, on the other hand, can be seen to dehumanize suffering. They focus on individuals and the positive results of Western aid. NGO campaigns single out donors “by addressing each one as a person who can make a concrete contribution” (Chouliaraaki).

In this second campaign image WaterAid is using a smiling child to show us what they can do with our money. Cameroon and Haanstra explain that children are often considered innocent and helpless, “cannot be easily blamed for their misfortune” so are perfect candidates for Westerners to save. Dyke and Coldevin also believe that there are “benefits of making eye contact while asking for donations”. By drawing attention to himself, he is harder to ignore. The purpose of this smiling child is to make us feel like we can make a difference in his and other children’s lives. They give us a sense of power. He is not only smiling but looks healthy, well-fed and cared for, all of which they want us to assume is due to donations.
This method isn’t perfect either as it isn’t any more realistic than the first method was, therefore producing other stereotypes.

In conclusion neither of these methods are infallible – according to L.Chouliaraki both these methods of obtaining aid are flawed. Poverty Porn images are “denounced for dehumanising the sufferer” and deliberate positivism is “accused of glossing over the misery of suffering”. However, they do work to a certain extent; Poverty Porn is seen as the most effective way of making money in the short term, but not in the long term due to compassion fatigue, whilst Deliberate Positivism is better in the long term.
In response to both sets of critiques, there is now a new method of obtaining aid named as Post-Humanitarian communication. It is represented in this campaign poster for OXFAM whose aim was to change the negative perceptions we have of Africa. Post-Humanitarian communication no longer relies on photographs of others but more on branding and explaining why we should take action, celebrities have also started playing an important role. Main aim is to focus on what the developing world have rather than make us feel guilty about what they don’t have.

OXFAM

Read more about it: http://www.cbc.ca/strombo/news/oxfam-has-a-new-campaign-to-end-hunger-in-africa-is-it-refreshing-or-misgu



Reference list:
Cameron, J. & Haanstra, A. (2008) ‘Development Made Sexy: how it happened and what it means’, Third World Quarterly 29(8), pp. 1476. (Accessed 16/02/2018)
Chouliaraki, L. (2010) ‘Post-humanitarianism: Humanitarian communication beyond a politics of pity’, International Journal of Cultural Studies, 13(2), pp. 110. (Accessed 15/02/2018)
Dyck, E. and Coldevin, G. (1992) ‘Using positive VS. negative photographs for third-world fund raising’, Journalism Quarterly, 69(3), pp. 572-579. (Accessed 16/02/2018)
Iconic photos, Vulture Stalking a child. [Online]. Available at https://iconicphotos.wordpress.com/2009/08/12/vulture-stalking-a-child/ (accessed 17/02/2018)
The Guardian., Guardian Africa network., Oxfam: African advertising campaign is helping to dispel negative stereotypes. [Online]. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jan/10/oxfam-africa-aid-campaign (accessed 17/02/2017)

 

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