ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Human dignity violations in images

Updated on June 2, 2015

What picture comes to mind when you hear a title like poor, homeless, drug addict or even illegal immigrant? Those words – and many others like them - are labels. They are used to identify, or profile a group, for purposes of distinguishing or isolating the group from the rest. It is easier to use a word or phrase and convey an image than attempting a description.

So, when people are labeled “the homeless’, “the poor”, “the illegal immigrants” images appear in the audience’s mind. The images are generic even though the subject people are individuals with different and diverse circumstances.

Those mental images shape or inform on the audience’s attitude towards those labeled. Just sit back and think of “the homeless” – what image comes to your mind? Perhaps it is an image of drunken, dirty, even filthy individuals at a street corner holding a sign asking for a dollar (to buy another can of cheap beer). Or, maybe, it is an image of a mentally ill veteran whose family could no longer help and ended on city streets living on drugs!

Labels and profiles are not compatible with the Oneness of all human beings. Individuals and their circumstances differ but humanity is one. What those labels of poor or homeless or illegal immigrant do is to isolate those individuals (as a group) from the rest of society on the basis of economic factors – which, by the way, differ from society to society. When we think or embrace the Oneness of humanity, such isolation becomes contradictory.

Police profiling has been met with strong condemnation everywhere and whenever it has surfaced. Such condemnation has been based on legal ramifications. However, any person or group profiled or labeled is stigmatized by more than just legal implications. There are issues of human dignity as well as personal privacy.

This is indeed, the subject of this discussion, not legal or economic ramifications, but basic human dignity and personal privacy. This is where photographers and photojournalism come in.

Evan Goulet published an article in photo.net (photo.net/street-documentary-photography-forum/00JsJp) titled, “Exploitation of the poor on a different level” and stated this: “You can have that award winning shot of doe-eyed children begging for a handout. And what do the villagers get?” One can ask differently, “what do the “homeless” or “the poor” or “the illegal immigrant” get?

One may ask: How is this exploitation?

Photographers and photojournalists are paid for the pictures they take and the stories they write. Many of them are regular employees of media outlets. The media outlets are themselves making money out of the pictures and stories – you can bet, they would not hire or pay the photographers and photojournalists!

It is therefore exploitation for publicity. (It is the same exploitation that is seen in disaster photography and prompted Richard Woodward in ARTNews to raise the question of whether “spectacular images of victims is exploitation of others misfortunes or covering bad news”).

Exploitation of others’ misfortunes is the phrase. And how is it exploitation?

Here is an illustration:

A local photojournalist has twice published in a local media outlet – for which she is an employee – stories she has labeled “The Faces of the homeless” and “The stories of the homeless”. It is not coincidence that one story followed the other.

The most characteristic feature in these profiles are individuals holding large cards in front of them where they have written a message suggested by the photojournalist. Remember your mental image of “the homeless”? These individuals are led – by the photojournalist – to show in picture, the image that is already in the audience’s mind.

Think about it in the words of a commentator in a discussion in urban75.net: “Perhaps if the photographer considers the exact same situation but with a member of their own family in place…” Indeed, think of a family member in the images of “the poor”, “the homeless”, or the “illegal immigrant”.

Consider further, if one photographed does not want his or her image displayed in the media? What those photojournalists do is to entice their profiled individuals to sign a document they don’t even read. Even then, don’t we all change mind sometimes? What is one realizes that their privacy is being violated? In the eyes of the exploiters, they have no rights.

Of course there will be those who will claim that this exposure is meant to educate the public about the plight of “these victims”. Yet, in reality, their situation cannot be projected on an image – mental or copy. This is only a simplification which distorts the overall picture. Furthermore, the photographers are not doing any advocacy on behalf of those portrayed in their stories. They are making a living and have no interest even in going deeper into learning the circumstances of their subjects.

And so we ask: What needs to be done?

First, let the public be aware of this dehumanizing practice. Humanity is about dignity for all human beings despite their circumstances. “When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter. As you see him/her you will see yourself. As you treat him/her you will treat yourself. As you think of him/her you will think of yourself. Never forget this, for in him/her you will find yourself or lose yourself” (quote from A Course in Miracles).

Second, be a voice. No one needs a course in human dignity – it is a natural. Yet, many whose dignity is violated may not be aware of the fact at the time of violation. We must embark on educating the perpetrator as well as the violated. Speak against the practice, write about it, and create an opportunity for discussion – in training sessions, study groups and especially in social service agencies.

Thirdly, be an advocate. Confront – peacefully and forcefully – those benefitting from this exploitation. Voice your opposition in the media as well as through advocacy agencies.

Let us remember that we are all one – created equal and in the image of God. If one is exploited then all are exploited. When one is healed all are healed. When people fight for freedom they seek to set free the oppressor as much as the oppressed. This is our collective mission.

A baby sleeps under a railway wagon at a refugee camp
A baby sleeps under a railway wagon at a refugee camp | Source

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)