Sad Western Porn

The photograph of deceased Syrian infant Alan Kurdi laying face down on a beach in Turkey is one of the saddest images I have ever seen. Shot in 2015 by Turkish Photo Journalist Nilüfer Demir, the image quickly gained international media attention and became somewhat of a symbol for the global refugee crisis that was emerging as a result of the ongoing civil war in Syria. I recall seeing the photo for the first time when it was trending (and subsequently igniting a debate) on social media shortly after it’s initial publication. The emotional response evoked within me back in 2015 was much the same as it is today: sadness.

 

 

Wait a second, why did I start this paper by immediately addressing my feelings?  I set out to write this paper about the western media’s portrayal of poverty, and how problematic it is, yet here I am, unintentionally beginning my rant by selfishly concentrating on my own emotions, rather than the broader issues present within the portrayal of poverty by the media. Why did I not start by attempting to empathise with the Kurdi family, who’s pain and sadness no doubt dwarfs my own? Or perhaps I could have begun by focusing more specifically on the situation in Syria, which has now reportedly claimed up to 400,000 casualties.

Sadly, the egocentric response I have exhibited here is fairly common in the media landscape, especially when the topic at hand is poverty. The term poverty porn has been invented and is now widely used, to categorise the behaviour I am describing here. Put simply, poverty porn, also sometimes referred to as development porn, is any type of media which exploits the poor’s condition in order to generate the necessary sympathy for generating profit or increasing charitable support for a specific cause.

 

 

Be it a photo of a deceased Syrian baby washed up on a Turkish beach, or Kevin Carter’s famous 1994 photo of a vulture waiting to devour a dying child in Sudan (above), the media has long been addicted to poverty porn. Here I will highlight the western media’s tendency to focus primarily on the suffering experienced by the western audience when confronted with these images, rather than the suffering of the non-western subject.

The first example is a promotional video (see below) produced by the charity organisation Red Nose Day and starring comedian Jack Black. The video begins with Mr. Black giving an introduction and explaining to the viewer “what your donations will be going to”. After the cheerful introduction, the video quickly descends into a gloomy mood as a sullen piano tune begins playing. Mr. Black cries whilst being interviewed about what he has witnessed during his time in Uganda. A large portion of this four-minute video is dedicated to footage of Mr. Black crying as he describes the pain elicited by witnessing other people’s suffering. The video is clearly intended to provoke an emotional response from a western audience, and in many ways, it does a good job of that. Mr. Black uses the closing sequence of the video as an opportunity to plea for public donations towards the Red Nose Day charitable campaign. This video serves as a clear example of the above-mentioned definition of poverty porn in which the producer uses the suffering of the poor to generate sympathy and garner support for a charitable organisation. Seeing the usually jovial and affable Jack Black crying creates a sense of sadness that a western audience can relate to, albeit without addressing the causes of issues present in Uganda.

 

 

A second and perhaps more famous example is Kevin Carter’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1994 photograph, titled “The Vulture and the Little Girl” (pictured and mentioned above). The image was first published in the New York Times over twenty years ago the image still to this day is regarded as one of the world’s most famous examples of western photojournalism. Some have argued that Carter’s photograph is poverty porn, while other’s argue that his work did a tremendous job of raising awareness toward the famine in Sudan at the time. After careful consideration, I have concluded that it is probably a bit of both. The photograph is no doubt striking, and as a result, it has become famous, which in turn has raised some level of awareness of the public perception of issues in Sudan during the 90’s. The issue, however, is that Carter’s photograph was captured as a commercial endeavor. The fact that it heightened western awareness about Sudan would have only resulted in a bigger payday for Carter, and for the New York Times. It would be unreasonable to assume that either party was present in Sudan purely on humanitarian grounds. The goal of both the photojournalist and his employer is to earn money.

It is quite easy to argue these two examples above as being ‘poverty porn’. What is much harder is deciding whether the good outweighs the bad when it comes to poverty porn. There is obvious good that comes from the sharing of images which highlight suffering, as there too is negatives. Perhaps what we need more of though is explanations as to the causes and solutions to said suffering. There is no humanitarian side to the poverty porn sccenrio unless the genuine intent is to use it to create a better world.

 

Advertisements

Week 5 Module: Review- Creatures of the Night

‘Creatures of the night’ by Jack Osborne is a beautifully composed piece of audio. This one-minute clip describes the feeling of working the night shift at McDonalds. Osborne uses a combination of the ambient sounds of meat cooking on a grill to indicate where the subject is working. This is coupled with the sounds of a harmonica which creates a sense of loneliness for the listener. The way Osborne choses to limit the ambient noises to just the sound the grill helps give the viewer an understanding that there is nothing else happening at 3am other than the task at hand. There is no sound of co workers, customers or a busy restaurant. There is only the sound of the grill which creates an empty feeling within the listener.

The harmonica is also instrumental in provoking the feeling of loneliness. It is a single harmonica which makes the listener feel as if he or she has just walked into a deserted town during the ‘wild, wild west days’ in America.

The interview is clear, concise and the way that Osborne leaves the listener wondering where the interviewee is working until the very end of the story adds an element of suspense to the work.

Students Have Differing Perspectives on the Future of Journalism

First year students at the University of Wollongong have mixed feelings about the future of professional journalism due to the rise of content curation and aggregation, coupled with the increasing popularity of citizen journalism.

Student Robert Brady, 19, believes that in order to pursue a career as a professional journalist he will need to adapt to the changing environment, but Mr Brady is also confident that “journalists will learn how to use aggregation to their advantage.”

Aspiring journalist Elly Manoe is also optimistic about the future of professional journalism, stating, “I think there is always going to be a need for professionals to tell a story and do research. I don’t think the role of the journalist will ever be eradicated.”

Ms Manoe believes that the emergence of the Internet as a media platform is the most fundamental issue affecting modern journalism but she remains confident that as “technology is advancing it is helping us get everything online which is making it easier to produce journalism”

Not all students are as confident about the role of the professional journalist in the future. Communications and media student Bella Hunter believes that the Internet has significantly transformed the journalism profession.

“The Internet has changed journalism completely, allowing for the journalists themselves to access information without actually going ‘on site’. This has serious consequences, both positive and negative. The Internet, with a flow of constant information, allows for a lot of ineptitudes, not all the information being presented is correct. However, on the upside, the internet allows for this information to reach people faster.”

Speaking outside The University of Wollongong Creative Arts building, Ms Hunter also explained her fears about job prospects for aspiring journalists.

“I’m very turned off by the fact that journalism is such a niche industry now. If I were to be interested in getting a job, there’s no way that it would remain secure due to the constant change of media. I’d prefer a job where I can adapt and change with the media, rather than to suit the media.”

First year student Jade Hall, 19, also stated that she is concerned that the recent emergence of citizen journalism may negatively effect the many journalists who are looking for jobs and who are qualified in their fields. According to Ms hall, “Anyone can be a citizen journalist which doesn’t seem fair.”

In response to questioning about whether attending Wollongong University has changed her views on the ability of journalists to gain employment in the future, Ms Hall remained positive: “Coming to university has reassured me that there are jobs in the journalist field and has helped me make the right decisions in order for me to be equipped with going in the job field later on.”

Witness the Fitness

From bashing down brick walls to sculpting a six-pack. The Leisure Post caught up with journalist Elly Manoe from the University of Wollongong to find out what makes this dedicated Female body sculptor tick.

For most people, the middle of the night is reserved for sleeping, or sitting behind a computer screen watching endless episodes of Game of Thrones. This is not the case for 19-year-old Elly Manoe from the University of Wollongong.

“I used to go to anytime fitness and that’s a 24-hour gym. I would finish work at 3 in the morning and get a workout in after that- and that was normal for me.” Elly knows all about the power that comes with working out regularly. “When I am in the gym lifting weights I feel powered and invincible. I’m determined and when I hit a new PB (personal best) I’m really happy because I’ve made progress and I happy within myself. I love it; I’m like the hulk. I will punch a wall down.”

Her obsession with weight lifting stems from a childhood in which Elly participated in almost every sport under the sun.

“I was a very sporty child. Since I could walk my mum put me into dance. I also did a lot of horse riding. During school I was pretty active in sport as well, I did soccer, baseball, basketball softball, netball and touch.

As she got older she even tried her hand at pole dancing for fitness but somewhere amongst joining her local gym and a difficult break-up Elly realized that her true passion was weight lifting.

“I started going to the gym in 2012. I didn’t really know what I was doing for a little bit but I just wanted to get fit. It became religious because I dated a guy who was going to the gym and it was my way of bonding with him.

“It wasn’t until we broke up that I started going to the gym every single day. I got angry and thought stuff him I want to get a six-pack so I started doing core every day until I got a 6 pack and it took off from there”

Since completing impressive goal of carving out a six-pack Elly has set her sights higher and recently her dedication has been rewarded with a sponsorship with Body building company Aussie-Supps. After initially being apprehensive about receiving sponsorship Elly has since accepted the offer and is using the support to propel her into the IFBB body-sculpting season, which begins in July.

With her unwavering dedication and commitment, Elly is bound to succeed at whatever she sets her mind to; but even amongst a compulsive twice a day training regime and preparing for the upcoming body-sculpting season she still finds time to sit and reflect on her proudest moment in the gym.

“I remember the day that I got my body fat percentage results back and I had been on a low carb calorie defecate diet for I don’t even know how long. It was really stressful; I was doing two gym workouts every single day.” This memorable moment filled Elly with a sense of joy that she says even surpassed the pleasure of receiving her HSC results.

A life in the gym is not for everyone but for this body-sculptor the decision is simple because as she says “you lift something heavy and it feels like you can break down a wall.”

AFL Bans the Long Walk Home

Image courtesy of The Herald Sun
Image courtesy of The Herald Sun

THE AFL has placed a ban on coaches walking to their hotels after games following a meeting with South Australian hotel partners Accor on Monday.

The decision comes in the wake of a late night altercation involving Hawthorn coach Alistair Clarkson and an allegedly inebriated supporter that occurred as Clarkson was walking back to his hotel following an 8-point loss to Port Adelaide in April.

Footage emerged soon after the game that appears to show a man confronting Clarkson as he is walking to a inner city hotel and satirically asking “Hey ‘Clarko’, how was the win, mate? How was the win today, brother?”, at which point Clarkson uses his right hand to push the man away. The man in the video then moves closer to Clarkson and yells “Go the Power”, prompting Clarkson to forcefully attack the man.

The incident prompted a police investigation, however, at this stage no charges have been laid against Alistair Clarkson or the fan in question.

A spokesperson for the AFL has said that following discussions with Accor hotels the league has decided that coaches are no longer allowed to walk back to their hotels following games and must instead take the team bus.

“We have sent [a memo] to all the clubs that you now must go by the bus and then in terms of what we can do when players and coaches leave the bus and go into the hotel”.

The South Australian Police met with Clarkson in Melbourne on Monday as investigations continue into the hotel incident and it is unclear at this stage whether Clarkson will be charged with assault following his attack on the fan in the video.

Somber fire side chats: Citizen Journalism

Citizen journalism disrupts the traditional industrial journalism model by empowering Internet to act as journalists and commentators. Dr Alex Burns from the Queensland University of Technology describes Citizen journalism as being discursive and deliberative, and better resembling a conversation than a lecture.

This video explores citizen journalism by remixing the story of a professional journalist and a citizen journalist working collaboratively to uncover the truth behind the death of Ian Tomlinson during the 2009 G20 riots in London.