Monday, May 15, 2017

Another Opportunity for Comparison

Comparing, this time, what people say with what they do. Here's one of the righteous people out there on twitter fighting for what is right and true, one Maria Lopez. Maria has been doing her bit to condem people who take terrible exploitative photographs, here she is commenting somewhere:

I’m no photographer. I’m a visual anthropologist (yes there is such thing). And as such, I want to say to photographers and image producers: either you come up with narratives that respect the subject (hint= do not deny agency over the discourse about themselves, do no deny dignity) + tells something interesting (hint= interrogates the interrelations that make up the complexities you should be interested in) , or you don’t shoot. It’s that simple.

Now let us examine some of her fine visual anthropological study, available here: remembering hell

A quick google around reveals that these are literally the standard tourist snaps of the standard objects everyone takes when they go to Choeung Ek and take the standard 1 hour (or whatever it is) Killing Fields tour. Keep in mind that, for all we know, some of the skulls she so dutifully photographs could be muslim skulls, or skulls belonging to some other religious group, the original owners of those skulls might not be thrilled with the current regime using their body parts for display. Maria Lopez doesn't care, though.

Not a hell of a lot of that "respecting the subject" here (she "can't" speak to the survivors, everyone else "doesn't" speak to them, everyone else "wants a piece of them" and Maria bravely photographs them, or some goddamned thing). Not a hell of a lot of interrogating the interrelationships here. She gives no evidence that she has even read the wikipedia page on the Cambodian Genocide. There are "interrelationships" which could be "interrogated" here, but she doesn't bother, doesn't care, she's had her 1 hour tour and she's done.

By being a standard tourist, she is simply regurgitating the narrative the current Cambodian government wants to promote which is at the very least a bit problematic (those damned skulls).

Tourist girl goes to Cambodia, takes the standard tour, takes the standard snaps, writes a few hundred words of weepy bullshit about events that happened decades before she was born and half a world away, and throws it up on the web as "visual anthropology", then takes to twitter to decry unethical photojournalism.

This is the quality of person we have "policing" the ethics of an industry. This is the quality of person that presumes to dictate to Magnum how they ought to conduct themselves. She makes James Curtis look like an intellectual superhero.


  1. Where do you find these muppets anyway? They distinctly put me in mind of some of the more idiotic columnists we get in our papers... *shudder*

    1. After Ben Chesterton managed to destroy Souvid Datta's career, Chesterton and his friends started sniffing around for more targets. Maria is somewhere in that crowd.

      They're mostly Euro NGO/management types, so, arrogant colonialists who think their shit doesn't stink. More interested in destroying people over ideology "You're photographing prostitutes wrong!" than in doing anything about the problem (duh, they're NGO people).

      I've seen a few of these witch-hunts. These disgusting bottom-feeders can do a lot of damage to good people before they tear themselves apart with internal ideological debate.

    2. Also, about the chesterton dude... He sounds seriously jealous. I initially thought that harrow quip was just to make Souvid look like a dick, but on reading it again...

      Do British folk have that sort of inferiority complex to the top school guys? I know we have it in India (IIT), but I didn't think there was so much of it in the west.

    3. I have certainly observed in a few cases a profound consciousness, in the UK, of which schools do what.

      Interestingly, it seems that the pre-university schools seem to be a big deal, tending to lead into specific tracks at University, which lead to specific kinds of careers. Loads of people go to Oxford, but if you didn't come to Oxford FROM Eton, then it's going to be very very hard for you to make certain career choices.

      In the USA it (mostly, but not entirely) starts in university.

  2. The site linked to is quite interesting, in many ways it seems a box ticking exercise in using right on phrases and terms. What the F is a "visual anthropologist" when its at home? I understand that an anthropologist is a studier of human evolution. I don't think that Ms Lopez is a qualified anthropologist, I would expect a lot more information about the origins in the things photographed.