David Campbell has an insightful post on visualizing ‘Africa’, and the need for thinking about representations in terms other than the positive/negative binary. From the blog:
However, we have to refrain from seeing Akena’s photograph as ‘negative/wrong/false’ while Bardeletti’s are ‘positive/right/true’. These are tired forms of critique that overlook the fact that all photographers make aesthetic choices in the construction of imagery. In terms of what ‘we’ outside of ‘Africa’ see, the overriding concern needs to be less the presence of particular pictures than the absence of all the alternative possibilities.
I think that Campbell’s call to direct our concern from the “presence of particular pictures” towards the “absence of all the alternative possibilities” can be applied to work aside from visual representations. Recall my earlier post on the history of humanitarian discourse, and the task of re-imagining the ways in which we are connected to those who suffer…
For more about taking photographs of ‘Africa,’ see also Asim Rafiqui’s post at The Spinning Head; David Campbell’s ‘Back Catalogue’ of his writing on representing Africa; and Duncan McNicholl’s Perspectives on Poverty (for a more playful and humorous take).