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GALLERY 2014

visual communication practice

Chain of Poverty
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Description of idea

Describe your idea and concept of your work in relation to the festival outlines:

Through collaborative storytelling I seek to give voice back to these families and close the gap between ‘them’ and ‘us’. The aim is to recognise impoverished people as multidimensional and change the ways in which global audiences understand their lives and communities. I also seek to create an affective response in the audience through dialogue and presenting the visual story, breaking down the distance maintained by previous academic researchers, mainstream media and popular culture. In attempting to do so, intimate relationships have been formed and the compassion among us can never be broken.

What kind of communication approach do you use?

For two and a half years I have been exploring the lived experience of three impoverished families in Bangladesh. I have immersed myself into their situations, living with them, engaging with them and becoming a stakeholder in their daily lives. This in-field work will simultaneously focus on creating visual stories from the collaborations and continuous dialogue, and will develop visual narrative and finalised images and text for the four exhibitions (Photo & Video). I am going to have open-air exhibitions in three separate locations at the same time in Bangladesh on the street, in slum and in village. These locations are where each of the families live. I plan to launch a book as well.
The whole point in doing the exhibitions on-site is to give voice back to the people whose stories I am telling and create an effective dialogue through the response from the participants and their community. I will also exhibit my work to the minority world community in Brisbane, Australia and creating a web-based platform.

What are in your opinion concrete benefits to the society because of your communication?

Images of grief and poverty are often presented in a way that influences the viewer to feel guilt, sympathy and pity, and as a result they motivate audiences to donate money instead of coming to know the people in the photos as human beings with the ‘same rights, ideals and capabilities’ as their own and present them as ‘helpless victims’. It is an act that is more likely to result in generosity based on shame (pity) rather than empathy. As a result, minority world benefactors become less compassionate and less caring for the recipients of their donations which, in turn, dehumanises those people. This has created a cycle in which the majority world is still seen as ‘other’, not us.
Succinctly, through this project, my objective is to investigate the affective dimensions of poverty and through the research methods adopted, create a sense of solidarity in the reader. This project does not subvert the humanness of those involved and acknowledges that they too are part of the world community. In addition, the work acknowledges and celebrates the reflexivity in the processes undertaken during the research and argues that it is these processes that are necessary to generate compassion (rather than pity) for those who endure great deprivation.
It is hoped that this research and communication will contribute to the scholarship on research methodologies; can address social justice issues through challenging the tired notions inherent in traditional journalism and dismantling the boundaries between ‘us’ and ‘them’.

What did you personally learn from creating your submitted work?

The collaborative approach of image construction and the intention of storytelling have a vital role in this project; effecting the process of investigation, my way of thinking, image construction, emotional attachment, perception and the response I had to my in-field situation.
Upon working on this research, another discovery I have made is that most of time we as ‘photojournalists’ approach situations believing that we have the right to photograph what we wish and how we wish without regard to the people or situation we are imaging. This is especially so with people who are impoverished, more vulnerable, less confident and less empowered than us. This power imbalance also makes such people even more vulnerable and less confident in controlling the situation at hand, which forces them to lose the ability to say ‘no’. Through seeking informed consent and ensuring participants were aware they had the authority to decline my request to participate, it was very interesting to note that several families did, in fact, chose not to be involved. This was unfamiliar to me, as in all my previous experiences working in a more photojournalistic mode (without the stricture of an informed consent process), I would almost always automatically gain intimate access.
I was forced to confront my first impressions and gain new understanding through learning more about their life. This underscored for me the importance of acknowledging the whole reality of the situation with compassion rather than reacting to the most sensational aspects, which would likely generate feelings of pity and/or outrage. In attempting to do so, intimate relationships have been formed and the compassion among us can never be broken. We care for each other now like an extended family.

Why is your work, GOOD communication WORK?

I believe my work started to question not only the minority world media, but also my own early work as a majority world photographer heavily influenced by mainstream media from minority world. During my 25-year career as a photographer for national and international newspapers I have produced several bodies of work on poverty. In this work I do not intend to only present the impact of poverty on individual and family to gain sympathy from minority world audiences in order to convince them to donate. My earlier works were undertaken with the best of intention and did contribute to an understanding of the lives of the street dwellers, but now I seek to challenge the stereotypes of the impoverished majority world and in doing so narrow the gap between them and us.

Where and how do you intent do implement your work?

Create an effective dialogue through Exhibitions, Book and Web-Platform.

Did your intervention had an effect on other Media. If yes, describe the effect? (Has other media reported on it- how? Were you able to change other media with your work- how?)

Not yet.


Curators comments More info on Curators & Editors ›

I really appreciate this work- it uses a long term immersion of the photographer with the subjects and the 'dialogue' at present is about those relationships developed over time. I really respect the willingness of an author to cross social boundaries in personal life and become embedded with subjects and become a participant- lots of interesting ideas in anthropology about that, though I wonder if it has ever really penetrated on a deep level in photographic practices (ie photojournalism, expressive photography etc). I also think the author's long-term engagement with photojournalism and the current reflection and careful thinking about photography and it's role subjectively with viewers and subjects is a powerful line of thinking that will influence all levels of their practice, including dissemination. I'd respectfully encourage the author to continue to think about that, perhaps working with others- dissemination and positioning and the dilemmas of audiences that expect to respond to these images as a motivation to 'only' give money, or 'only' feel pity is a real problem.

View other works commented by Scott Townsend  ››

Dear Shehab Uddin,
first please accept that my english is very bad (not in reading texts but in writing) so I try to give my best but I cannot go in deep grounds with my poor basical expressions.

You wrote: "It is hoped that this research and communication will contribute to the scholarship on research methodologies; can address social justice issues through challenging the tired notions inherent in traditional journalism and dismantling the boundaries between ‘us’ and ‘them’."

I feel really concerned by your approach, doing myself such (not only photographical approaches). therefore please understand my writing not as a professoral statement but really as a collegues one.

You try in fact, to work "with" and less "over" the people, you share not only time with them but also want to give them the work back. Good, honest intention, really.
And naturally ou do it with your professional background. With "your world" too, which uses new media, books, newspapers, exhibition... and honest distinctions, the big circus called "develloped world".
This world is strictly directed by capitalistic power, money, plus-value, stock-options, shareholder and tralala... Do you share de benefits of your action with "your poors"? Please don't misunderstand me, but what I can tell, is, that here in Europe (in France, England, Germany) the question comes nearly automatically today. "Hey photographer, ok, let's share my misery with you. and what can I earn with that?" The poor too have stereotype-filled heads (filled by global world mass-media). Photographers are rich. ;-)

And why do you need the pict of the chain on the wall as cover in your book-dummy? for me it's too signifiant. rather take on slide from the video...

good continuation

alex Jordan

View other works commented by Alex Jordan  ››

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Curators comments

This work has been commented by 2 curator(s):
Scott Townsend Alex Jordan go to comments ›

Entry details

Title

Chain of Poverty


Headline

Living Poverty: The lived experience of three impoverished families in Bangladesh.


Concept author(s)

Shehab Uddin


Concept author year(s) of birth

1972


Concept author(s) contribution

As this work is a part of my doctoral research project, I have been exploring the lived experience of three impoverished families in Bangladesh. I have immersed myself into their situations, living with them, engaging with them and becoming a stakeholder in their daily lives to tell the story.


Country

Bangladesh


Competition category

visual communication practice


Competition subcategory

static


Competition field

academic


Competition subfield

educator/researcher


Subfield description

Doctor of Visual Arts at QCA, Griffith University