As a student you are constantly learning, otherwise there would be no point? I find I look at everything twice, once as "me" and once again with "thinking" brain in gear....possibly ;o) Over the past few months I have been reading books, flicking through magazines and generally gleaning snippets of information wherever I go. Getting the weekly OCA e-bulletin has been really useful. I love reading the articles and debates that arise and the examples of other students work has been helpful. Looking at the blogs and learning log has shown me where I am going right, or where I can look to improve.
I don't comment on any of the articles (maybe I should) but they always stir a reaction, none more so that the Julie Project by Darcy Padilla. 2nd prize stories - World Press Photo
Some of the responders jumped in with comments congratulating the photographer on her documentary whilst others felt it was "emotional tourism". It sounds like I am sitting on the fence if I say I agree with both, so allow me to clarify.... I think this was a fine piece of social documentary. Over 18 years this family has been followed and each turn in their lives documented. Isn't that what social documentary is about? Emotional tourism? Yes that too, for surely aren't all photographs taken with the agenda to stir emotions in one way or another?
Aren't we always being told to make sure we know our subjects and not exploit them? How often are we told not to take a photograph of the homeless because it is easy, because they are available and it's too easy to walk away and not know the background story? Or how often do people show images of torture victims, or the disabled and then never follow up on their story. Different genre but in some wildlife films the people studying a particular group will do so for years, they don't intervene, if an animal is sick or injured, they hate it but they allow nature to take it's course. Darcy Padilla sought and was given permission to do what she did. We know she helped financially at one point, maybe she did again, but if she assisted too much no longer would she have been documenting the truth of the situation.
After reading comments of "emotional tourism" some of the audience changed their mind, ok that's is good in some respects, that what debate is supposed to do, show you another perspective, enlighten, allow you to have a different opinion. If this series of images had never been taken, and over such a sustained period the viewers would never have been shown this realism, this side of poverty and deprivation, how life can continue to knock people down and how hard it is for some to change direction and repeat the same mistakes.
There is a difference between a single shot and showing repeated suffering, and I feel that occasionally the single shot can be more the exploitation shot, "oh look this is bad"...packs up camera walks away..... Does a campaigner wanting to highlight an issue take one shot of a blighted land, or a war torn country or do they return, show other images (ok not always the same person) Of course they create a body of work, that is how strong messages are put over.
Padilla was also criticised for the way she took the images "the appropriateness of the luxurious technical approach and the repeated knowingness of the compositions.” Just because it is a harrowing subject means she should not have taken care with the compositions? Having shot the same topic for 18 years meant she probably knew exactly what she wanted and how to achieve it and did not overly labour the technical side...
Maybe I am wrong, but they are my views and reasons why I don't think the photographer was exploiting either the subject or intended audience.