Brief: Write a reflection in your learning log about some of the ways in which marginalised or under-represented people or groups could be badly or unhelpfully portrayed. How might being an insider help combat this?
Is any publicity about an under-represented group bad publicity? It depends if you want to try to control what people think about you. There is plenty of anger about injustice out there – here is an interesting post about this issue.
When we talk about social justice and popular culture, we find ourselves talking a lot about the twin problems of invisibility vs bad representations. Invisibility means the complete absence of marginalised group/s from the piece we’re analysing, and generally from most popular culture as well. That’s things like pieces that are white-only, that feature only conventionally able folks, that erase non-het/cis folks entirely etc. Bad representations are exactly what it says on the can. Where someone from a marginalised group is present, but is presented in a stereotyped/reductive/negative/comical way due to the inherent fact of their belonging to that group. https://angerisjustified.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/invisibility-vs-bad-representation/
Joanna Lowery’s contribution, ‘Negotiating Power,’ in ‘Face on: photography as social exchange,’ talks about dialogical and monological relationships in photography (Durden, Richardson, 2000). My experience, as someone who has developed a successful peer base research group, is that Participant Photography has much to offer theoretically and practically to the debate about authenticity when showing the lives of people at the margins of society. Two projects ‘The Rights Exposure’ and ‘PhotoVoice’ facilitate the work of video and photography in teaching people how to image their communities. One of the key ideas in this area of rights and representation is ‘advocacy’ where the subject becomes the creator, providing first hand experience of their life. Another key idea is that of having ‘educational objectives’ where photography is offered as a tool for creative work. There are concerns about the extent of involvement of participants as it can be a nominal activity where participants don’t have a say about how their images are edited and used.
“What is important is that participants are involved in whole photographic process – this brings people to a ‘place of expression’ and that they remain in control of their images.”
There is another issue that concerns me in that it is not self-evident that a photograph produced by a service user is a ‘better’ photograph than one I might produce. For me, however, the link to the person is important whatever is shown on the screen or in the gallery; it is a question of authenticity.
I conceived, completed and handed over a participatory research project for very stable drug users and their carers several years ago. This did achieve its educational goal with three published projects and those skills remaining and being used to this day in the local community. In project 2 I only helped with analysis skills and in project 3 made comments on the final report. They don’t involve me anymore! The thing I learnt in that process is it takes time but you can minimise that power gap and try to surrender the knowledge. Language used is crucial too – we did not use any Powerpoint presentations but video and games.
It is not possible to make this (Assignment 3) an educational project with longer term benefits as I do not have the time to do this in this next year. I consider it as a ‘trial’ for this and am thinking now that I need to be clear that ‘we are producing images for the company which reflect their experience of being in recovery.’ I think that focus point will help drive things forward. It is disingenuous to promise something (‘what is your world’ or ‘How to become a photographer’) that I cannot deliver.
Another source of advise was photo voice which produces training and a manual about how to do PP. https://photovoice.org/resources/
There are some important issues here which I will work out in my preparation for Assignment 3. I am just nibbling at the top of what this all means for the representation of identity and often place too.
Ed Mark Durden and Craig Richardson. (2000). ‘Face on: photography as social exchange.’ London, Black Dog Publishing Ltd.
Bakhtin, M. (1981). The Dialogic Imagination Austin, Texas, University of Texas.
Edwards, S. (1990). “The Machine’s Dialogue.” Oxford Art Journal, Oxford University Press 13: 63-76.
Godden, R. (2015). “Participatory Photography – Jack of all trades, master of none? .” Retrieved 20th November, 2016, from http://www.rightsexposure.org/the-rights-exposure-project/participatory-photography-jack-of-all-trades-or-master-of-none
The Discourse of Global Compassion: The Audience and Media Reporting of Human Suffering Birgitta Höijer Media and Communication, University of Örebro, Sweden, http://mcs.sagepub.com/content/26/4/513.abstract