Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sometimes, photographers need to seek out content to 'fit' a story. It could be a simple portrait to illustrate a story about a child, or an aerial shot to go with something about urban sprawl. Black water for pollution, beggars for poverty. The process sometimes works this way - almost as if in reverse. We fix the content, and search for the visual that goes with it.

Clearly - this doesn't help in terms of visual stereotyping. By actively searching out the most obvious frame, we continue to feed the system of quick judgments and loose associations.

The (very exhausted) team had just completed an assignment which required us to work in this content-first-visuals-second manner. The content? Mismanagement of taxpayers' money. The visuals? Oh boy, did we have a list. From schools to roads, traffic to post offices - it seemed like the wish list of images would never end.

I sent the team out to shoot, and worried about the whole idea of visual stereotyping. What if they were to "force" out a visual when there was none? To "imply" an association when it was a weak link? To over-dramatise and exaggerate a situation just to make it seem bleaker, more negative, more depressing?

As I browsed through the raw takes from their three-day shoot, I realised I had forgotten that Dhaka was a city that required no exaggeration.

Not when patients in the main government-run hospital have to resort to sleeping on the dirty, damp floor of corridors and under staircases. Lying next to their IV drips next to them, with tubes coming out of their noses and covered with a flimsy blanket brought from their own home - I couldn't exaggerate the situation even if I tried.

Even more painful to see was the expressions on the faces of family members camping out next to their loved ones. Worry, fatigue, hopelessness - and even a little anger, I think. I don't mean to be insulting to anyone, but I highly doubt that this is a hospital that people with choices would choose to come to.

Is depressing.


Lin the Finn said...

Yep, Bangladesh seems to trump any of our puny attempts at satire. It's a natural.