power of framing

A few weeks ago, I attended a talk given by renowned photojournalist Dr. Shahidul Alam at the Konrad Adenauer Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University.

His talk was about the power of media to cast certain people or groups under a certain light– either negatively or positively depending on who is being portrayed. For instance, the photographs coming out of countries such as Bangladesh (from where Dr. Alam is from) will more or else depict dire poverty: homeless beggars, and the like.

Sampaguita vendors outside Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City.

These photos, once passed on to the global media, then become the entire story of the Bangladeshi people; never mind if Bangladesh isn’t as poor as portrayed. or if there is a bigger picture that isn’t shown.

Interesting LED lanterns sold at Remedios Circle, Malate.
Case in point: I was actually suprised when Dr. Shahidul Alam said that he was from Bangladesh because prior to meeting him, my image of Bangladesh was the image portrayed in international magazines–a truly negative image. I never thought Bangladesh had news agencies, photographers, and all. To my ignorant mind, Bangladesh = refugee camp.

Here’s the cashier at Milkyway, a sort of fastfood restaurant that serves Filipino dishes.

In so many words, my most significant learning is this: portray people with dignity.

Waitress taking orders from a customer in Tanabe Japanese Restaurant.
Photographing street beggars is easy. No challenge in that. Photographing people without ever sacrifing their dignity. Wow! that’s difficult. This is the creative challenge Dr. Alam is proposing.

A woman listens to her iPod as she rides the jeepney traveling along Ortigas Avenue.

I believe Dr. Shahidul is correct. His ideas make a lot of sense. His challenge is something I’d like to take on.

I hope other photographers will to.


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