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a274: Re: a248: Re: a244Travel Warnings & Consular InformationSheet (fwd)

From: Dave Fonda <fonphoto@snip.net>



I sent this message yesterday and am not sure that I sent it to the correct address.  If you have already received it, please ignore this copy.  Thanks.


>And as for photographing misery and poverty, it's just plain disrespect and
>ugly Americanism that would make someone want to take home a picture of
>squalor and desperately poor people.  They are embarrassed to be seen like
>this.......don't you get it?  Either boorish behavior of regular folks with a
>camera or foreign journalists who have proven to be unfriendly to majority
>class Haitians, wanting a photo to go with the phrase......poorest country in
>the hemisphere.  There is no good reason to take a picture of these places.


While I would agree that your statement is accurate in its appraisal of the motives of many of the people who bring cameras into these areas, it is an over-simplification that does an injustice to others, as generalizations always do.

Just as there are compassionate people whose skills lie in the medical field, or in economic development, or in mission work, so, too, are there photographers with compassion.  The desire to help ones fellow man/woman is not limited by ones chosen profession;  nor is the capacity for respect for others.

Do you Really feel that there is No good reason to take Œtheseı photos?

Do you feel that these peoples stories do not deserve to be told?

It is essential that people do what ever can be done to help the poor, but how do you expect people to act if they do not know about them, and how do you expect people to know about the plight of the poor if no one tells their story?  Like it or not, itıs just too easy for most people to sit dumb and happy in their comfortable little first-world lives without ever thinking about the vast majority of the rest of the world.  How did you yourself first come to know of the problems you now work to solve?  No one just becomes aware.

Think of the major events of the 20th century.  How do we come to know of them and what motivates us to action?  The examples are many, but just to name a few of the more memorable:  the gross misuses of child labor in the early 1900ıs were brought to light by, and changed largely because of, the photographs of Lewis Hine;  the horrors of war can never be truly understood by any one who hasnıt experienced them, but Nick Utıs image of a naked, screaming child told enough to those horrors to help bring an end to the Viet Nam war;  and, while very few of us were there to see it in person, all of our lives have been unequivocally changed by the images we have seen of Sept. 11.

Donıt get me wrong, I have no sympathy for the people that you deride.  They make my work much more difficult;  in fact, their insensitivity puts my life at risk.  The legacy of insensitivity that they spread poisons the water for my work, but to deride all photographers for the actions of the ignorant is equally ignorant.  Would you chastise all MDŒs because well meaning amateurs tried to help the injured when they were ill-equiped to do so?  There are Professional photographers as well;  people who feel a moral compulsion to use their own God-given gifts to make the most change that they can in this world.

Respect is at the very core of my work, and at the core of any true Professional documentary photographer.  I do not just go into a situation with cameras thoughtlessly shooting at everything that moves.  Photography is an art, and like any other art, it is interpretation, the thoughtful telling of what I have come to learn about one person or place or problem or situation, to another person.  I do what ever I can to learn as much as I can about the person or place or problem I am photographing;  if I do not know the person, place, etc., I can not tell that persons, places, etc. story and therefore can not take the best picture possible of that person, place, etc.  It is All about Respect.

Do I expect to ever make the kind of impact that Hine, or Ut, or others have made?  No, not really.  Schweitzer, or Mellon or even Farmer?  Not in the least.  But my best shot at making an impact is with a camera and I will use it to make as much of an impact as I possibly can.

To sum up, yes, we do get it, at least the true professionals among us.  And I would ask you to please not thoughtlessly tar all of us for the sake of chiding some.


     Dave Fonda

       F O N D A    P H O T O G R A P H I C
        Corporate, Editorial & Documentary
         610.279.8525      610.279.5978-f

ŒSa je pa we, ke pa touenı    ‹   Haitian proverb

          ŒWhat the eye does not see, does not move the heart.ı