Looking at others; suffering.

It is hard to ignore that in today’s society, suffering, death, sickness and tradgety are in the forefront of all media and in our faces every single day. We are asked to donate to charities, suggested to sponsor a child and even to simply share or like a Facebook page/image/link, in order to create awareness and spread the issue throughout the social media world. Is this all done however for the good of the subjects, or for promotional and business perspectives?

Almost 15% of Australia’s population is living in poverty. That’s a confronting 2.5 million people, many of which are children. This is not okay and something that must change. Is enough being done to create awareness on a national level? Should more be done?

The SBS documentary, Struggle Street, claims it was attempting to do just that – create awareness of what poverty in Australia looks like and depict, though images and real footage, how some people have to live. However, there was much dispute and outrage after the relies of the first episode last year, with many saying it was disrespectful and that the ‘documentary’ was essentially making fun of these people who live ‘on the dole.’ The guardian published an article about the backlash of the series and how it was seen to have exploited the lives of the subjects shown. The article raises the question, ‘is any coverage, good coverage?’

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Struggle Street documentary. 

While many people did not sympathise at all with any of the individuals on the show, and many finding it a disturbing joke with most of the episodes containing swearing, drug use, fighting and eating fast food; it is also extremely hard to look away. This raises many questions… Is it poverty porn? Is it making fun of these poor people? Is it making little of such a big issue, which is an even bigger problem in other countries? Or is it sending an important message about poverty in Australia?

Struggle Street was highly talked about due to its images and way of portraying many individual was truly shocking. But did it send the right message? It definitely brought it to the attention of many – that people in Australia are suffering, and will do almost anything for money. Whether the subjects can truly help it is the real question…

What is poverty porn exactly? Steven Threadbold says it’s ‘Like mainstream sexual porn that produces sexualised images from the male gaze for male gratification, poverty porn produces abjectifying images of the poor through a privileged gaze for privileged gratification.’ Basically, people make these types of videos, for other people to make fun of the subjects and to have a laugh about their life.

Poverty porn, also known as development porn or famine porn, has been defined as “any type of media, be it written, photographed or filmed, which exploits the poor’s condition in order to generate the necessary sympathy for selling newspapers or increasing charitable donations or support for a given cause”

Poverty porn is also evident in images where the subject is depicted in a beautiful or inspiring way, but are truly deprived, sick, mistreated and unfortunate. The set of images below create artistic pieces out of those who are suffering… is this ethical? Is this okay if we are using these images to send a particular message about poverty and famine? Or is exploiting the individuals in the images? Is better or worse if these images are staged?

Sebastiao Salgado,
from his book Sahel the End of the Road 2004 (about the drought in Sahel region of Africa)Unknown
A vulture watches a starving child in southern Sudan, March 1 1993 (Kevin Carter)kevin-carter-vulture


I believe it is much worse if you are using real people in desperate conditions, and staging them for photographs; no matter what the intentions are. Suffering should not serve as entertainment purposes, for art, for commercial reasons or for fame; but unfortunately in today’s society, and with social media being an easily accessed, information sharing medium, it’s very easy and common to do.

To read more on a similar topic visit Amelia Murphy’s blog post.  I believe she pointed out some very important issues and topics on the subject, and shows some great examples.



Can you Take a Picture of me Staring into the distance so I can Post it on Instagram!?

From the kardashians, to fitness gurus, beauty bloggers and foodies, Instagram now plays a huge role in business, clientele and reputation. It is also a platform that acts as a storytelling medium for many ordinary people and simply, a place where individuals share photos and small video clips with friends/followers.
I admit, I check Instagram literally whenever I get a chance. My phone is basically always in my hand so im constantly on social media, especially flicking through Instagram. I post photos regularly and love to make my page look pretty and following a theme, however I wouldn’t necessarily say that I care what others think of my images, or think that by posting images forms a sense of self establishment in a ‘show-off’ manner. Does this till mean I am quantifying myself? Am I collating ‘facts’ and figures and experiences and knowledge about myself on one, public platform?

Gary Wolf explains what the quantified self really means in his TED talks segment. He talks about the number of new technologies that essentially collate every single fact and figure about yourself, from sleeping patterns to the number of steps you did that day. He explains that these facts and figures are for self knowledge primarily and should be used to get to know yourself better. Is Instagram the complete opposite of this? Is it a place where we fake ourselves to make us look better? Or is it another fact about yourself? Does the number of followers or likes you have contribute to you self knowledge, or self perception? Leaders and followers: Status in the tech scheme states that ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ on various social media platforms ‘are all metrics that provides comparable measures of importance.’

My 14-Year-Old sister can be used as a perfect example of how Instagram use, may be linked with status. Olivia, times her photo-posting so as to attract the most views/likes/comments. With her growing up literally with social media, it is a much more crucial part of her everyday life. It’s not necessarily for validation that Olivia likes to do this, but more so to reach a larger audience at a given time and share with them something she is doing/loving/did/wearing etc… It is a part of her everyday life.
Status does however play a huge factor in Instagramer’s posting regime. For many, it’s all about photographs, filters, making your page flow and hash-tagging the right things for more likes, so you attract particular followers, views and even brands to your page. Sometimes Instagram is used as a platform to ‘show-off’ or even pretend that your doing something amazing, when its not really like that all the time. Most users will post the best parts of their life and completely exclude any negative connotations from their feed all together… and do we really blame them? I don’t. Does this basically mean people are faking their lives to make themselves look better? For self validation, or peer acceptance? For fame? In the article called Leaders and followers: Status in the tech scene, it explains that status refers to what your peers think about you. “yet what’s considered high status differs from context to context.”

It can be all about visibility, self validation and what people think of you and how you are perceived in the minds of others. And I admit, sometimes this is true for myself. You basically want people to know that your instagram theme is visually asthetic and flows and if you constantly post then people will always keep up to date with your feed, wait for more posts and like your images. It is a platform where people (including myself admittedly) post a picture whenever they are doing something cool or are visiting somewhere nice or when your view is nice or you are having fun with your friends or if your drinking a fancy champagne or wearing a new outfit, and as mentioned before, it is not REAL life.
This can lead though, and has, to many people being jealous of a particular person, feeling even more down about themselves and comparing their life to others.
On the other hand, you do sort of want people to think your ‘living the life,’ and most of the time it is not a true representation of your life. You could post a picture the next morning of ‘yay cocktails for my birthday at a rooftop bar’ looking all pretty and fancy, but in reality you went home and had a huge fight with your partner, or you got kicked out home for being too drunk etc…

Many individuals however, can and do make a living from promoting themselves and products on Instagram. Take Kim Kardashian for example, her Instagram feed is basically an advertising platform of HER and her life, which keeps people up-to-date and interested in following her – and thus watching ‘Keeping up With the Kardashians’, leading to more money for them.Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 6.05.22 pm.png

Kim K believes this selfie was posted because she is ‘liberated’, proud of her body and as a symbol of self empowerment. Other believe it was for attention, for advertisement, for the shock value… Whatever the true underlying meaning for the posting of this ‘selfie’ was, the fact that Instagram was the platform of choice and to see just how widespread the image became, proves that Instagram is a part of everyday life, apart of our lives and an important social media platform… whether we like it or not.