Photographing Wealth and Poverty
Like emotions, social and economic standings of societal classes can be captured in photographs, and these images can send a powerful message, one which is often used by social agencies and a host of non-profit organizations, private industry, wealth managers, economist as well as some government entities.
Obtaining these types of images can be an easy task but very dependent on your choice of representative subjects.
Photographing affluent or poor neighborhoods or expensive and low income housing is rather easy, it can even be done from inside your car. However, photographing people, especially if their social and economic status is less than ideal can offer many obstacles.
To represent wealth and poverty will often require a combination of subjects and different situations. One needs to photograph a variety of subjects ranging from people, houses, living conditions and many other elements to fully represent the theme.
There are exceptions to this rule however, and some images can be so exceptionally composed that by themselves fully represent the idea.
Approach your subjects and be upfront about your intentions and if needs be offer them assurances that the images will be used for your stated purposes. You will find that more often than not, you will be allowed to take the shots so long as they are done with sensibility and respect for your subjects.
If you shots will include property, please remember to ask for permission, especially if the dwelling can be recognized. Private houses are not free to photograph even if they can be seen from the road/public property as privacy laws enter the picture.
This issue can get even more confusing if the photographs are of the living spaces , like the patio, pool etc. or if people can be seen in the photo, it's simpler just to ask.
Although you may not need to be very sensible when photographing people of a wealthier setting, since they may be used to the attention, the same may not hold true for those of lower economic standards and you should be sensitive to their needs and feelings, and gain their trust through communication, since an image is not worth offending your subject.
Do always remember to capture images that are posed and un-posed and in various settings; your goal is to show wealth or poverty with an image and a good practice exercise is to ask yourself when focusing on the shot "does this image say wealth?" and the same holds true for poverty elements.
Consider using a black & white format if you wish to make a stronger statement or to add drama since this medium is very good for this, especially for capturing texture and details in shadows. The opposite for luxury as colors brings highlights more into focus and adds interest.
Pay attention to details like the hands, as very few elements can say so much about the life of the person as their hands. Facial features are also a good focusing point. Wrinkles and the effects of the Sun can also be very telling. Take shots of the subject's surroundings, clothing, make up and hair. Jewelry or lack of it. The eyes make powerful statements too so don't forget them. Shoes and other accessories can also be used. Pay attention to little details such as dusty surfaces or spotless ones. Tools of the trade, vehicles as well as any habits which offer the opportunity to tell a story.
A note of caution; limit your images of people to adults, if possible and only include children if you strongly feel that capturing these images are necessary for your purpose, since images of children can have a negative effect on the viewer of the images as well as on the subjects themselves.
This theme can be a good source for book publishers, general photography publications, an art gallery display and can also be used in social campaigns marketing. Contact the appropriate agencies and publications for guidelines and submission procedures as well as a list of restricted material and those subjects which are in demand before your start your work.
- In Our Own Backyard
Migrant farm workers, virtually unprotected by collective bargaining, minimum wage laws or social security, are among the hardest working yet most impoverished people in the United States. Housing and sanitation in migrant labor camps are often appal
© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez
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