We’ve all seen it: the photo essay on poverty in developing countries a teary-eyed African child, dressed in rags, smothered in flies, with a look of desperation that the caption all too readily points out. Like any other business, the non-profit and development sectors need revenue to survive.
Many charities have found that their most effective tactic for eliciting donations has involved the use of dehumanizing images to evoke feelings of pity and charity. The two images convey completely different stories, and elicit entirely different emotions in the viewer. The photo on the left does not reflect Edward’s success, portraying him instead as a hopeless, dirty, hungry and impoverished beggar. However, this is not an accurate portrayal of Edward.
In reality, he is very successful as an area mechanic and grower of tobacco, and he also works for a basket weaving business. He is also thinking of investing in a truck to start a transportation business. The Problem Since donors are often more empathetic to one person facing hardship than to many people, organizations frequently elicit donations by evoking sympathy in the viewer by showing images of hungry and ill children and, less frequently, adults. Before Photographing Always get the subject’s consent first, especially if you want to do a close-up. Examine your motives for shooting a particular frame. Do you want to inspire hope and understanding, or maybe even expose wrongdoing and neglect? It is not acceptable to use the photographs simply to harness pity.