Do you think about the significance of what and how you share on social media?
I was recently put onto an important podcast by @sacredfootsteps discussing orientalism in travel photography. I'll link to it in my stories, or you can find it on sacredfootsteps.org.
The issue discussed was how travel photographers and social media users represent non-Western destinations through biased Westernized lenses, disregarding or being insensitive to nuances and diversity of cultures.
Think sharing photos of starving, half naked children in Kenya to represent all of Africa. Using photos of orange-clad sadhus smoking hash to tell the world what India is. Taking photos where locals are used as props, rather than respected as humans.
Sacred Footsteps cited my account as a positive example of a Westerner visiting a place and sharing their experiences tastefully and respectfully. I'm honored, but it also made me uncomfortable. I am 100% guilty of some of the negative practices cited in the podcast.
Stereotypical developing world scenes capture my eye more than developed life ever will. My photos do not always show the nuances of a place, just pretty highlights. I am overly reductive in my descriptions and commentary at times, and at others use language that could be construed as condescending or colonial.
As I listened to the podcast, I tried to grasp why I got a pass when others didn't. After much deliberation, I think I understand why.
The key is to be respectful and receptive to others' perspectives, and responsive when you are wrong. I am not perfect in the way I represent places and people, but I do my best to learn from my mistakes, to listen when people come with with legitimate critique.
I'm sharing my thoughts now so you can understand that not only is this an important issue to discuss, it's also something I still struggle with regularly. No one is perfect.
I'll be going more into it in my next few posts, but for now, remember life is a perpetual learning process. The solution is not to attack and destroy people who err, but to provide constructive criticism so we can move forward and do better in the future.
Magical boat rides 💙
What you can't see in this picture - about a dozen family members right behind us, cracking jokes at our Bollywood-esque set up while a cousin tried to get the shot without falling over into the water 😂 it's my first time ever visiting Bangladesh, and him returning after 14 years. More on the significance of this trip to come soon 🇧🇩