This image captures a typical scene in a South Asian village. The invitation arrived from Suchit Nanda, a talented Indian photographer who shoots men, women and scenes from different cultures and societies as he moves around Asia and elsewhere.
Suchit’s work is being marketed by MajorityWorld.com, a new global initiative founded through the collaboration of The Drik Picture Library of Bangladesh and KijijiVision in the UK to champion the cause of indigenous photographers from the developing world and the global South – the Majority World!
“Very few published images of the South are taken by local photographers. They are invisible and don’t get a fair deal. This is what kijiji*Vision is campaigning to change,” says Colin Hastings of kijiji*Vision, a co-founder of Majorityworld.com.
By coincidence, just this week I’m involved in buying some photographs from Drik Picture Library to illustrate an Asia Pacific resource book on Communicating Disasters that TVE Asia Pacific is compiling. It is being co-authored by Frederick Noronha and myself, and due for a December 2007 release.
Whether in photography or videography, the global South – or Majority World – has to speak for itself. Our still images and moving images must tell our own story.
But try doing this in the commercial worlds of publishing or mass media, and suddenly we are competing in an extremely unfair and uneven playing field. Astonishingly, many development agencies – including the UN – don’t commission or acquire the work of talented Southern photographers or film-makers. Talk about not practising what they preach!
In an essay titled Communication rights and communication wrongs written in November 2005, I criticised the globalised media for persistently using stereotyped images of the South — captured mostly by northern photographers and camera crews.
I quoted Shahidul Alam as saying: “Invariably, films about the plight of people in developing countries show how desperate and helpless they are… Wide-angle black and white shots and grainy, high-contrast images characterise the typical Third World helpless victim.”
I added: “Media gatekeepers in the North often dismiss the better-informed and equally competent Southern professionals — saying, insultingly, that ‘they don’t have the eye’! And for years, I have resisted the widespread practice of Northern broadcasters and film-makers using the South’s top talent merely as ‘fixers’ and assistants.”
Read my full essay on SciDev.Net, which published it after Panos Features – the original commissioners – declined to carry it. Apparently my views were too outspoken for Panos London, which claims to champion communication for development…