While some of them are stunning, they raise questions for me about consent and representation. My first thought on seeing Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher's work was whether the pair would get away with photographing nude westerners and selling their photos online?
I wonder whether the photographers told their subjects that their images would be published, and sold, and in what form. Would they give permission if they knew what would become of their photos?
I asked my colleagues at Africa on the Blog what they thought. Here are some of their responses:. Even Instagram, Facebook and Google have removed all traces of it. To me, these photos are beautiful works of art. They weren't the work of accidental passers-by. The participants seem to have been prepared and posed for the camera.
There are societies in Africa where nudity is the norm and not really frowned upon. There are many villages in Nigeria where this is common. There are many people in the west who would like to go naked if the law permitted it.
There are famous African festivals where all the locals go naked. I am a bit concerned, though, about using children in this way. The rules for taking pictures have to be clarified. Two years ago, I was arrested in Lagos for taking pictures of buildings and roads. For the building, they accused me of spying and trying to copy the design of the building.
For the road, I was accused of trying to disgrace the country online as the road had potholes. Nudity is common on the beaches of the French Riviera but I doubt anyone would give consent to having their photo taken if asked. Would you share these photos on Facebook?
It's all about whether consent had been given — unless it is a public display where everyone is welcome. If a group of nudists decided to have a public parade in central London, I am sure there would be no offence in taking their pictures and posting on Facebook.
Beaches, swimming pools, saunas are not considered public places. I think we must be careful not to conflate a western context and a southern context. I do not view these images as pornographic not most of them anyway. I am more inclined to feel that they eroticise and dehumanise the Dinka by presenting them as objects rather than subjects, in the portrayal as well as the fact that it is other people who stand to gain from the commodification of their lives and identity. That for me is the greater concern, not whether or not they are clothed or naked.
I think what is for sale here is not necessarily or exclusively their naked bodies but their entire being and way of life which is reduced to "otherness". Also, the issue around permission is not as simple as a yay or nay. We should also ask whether or not the Dinka understand exactly what they might be giving consent to and the implications thereof and more importantly, whether or not they care.
As for the children, I don't think their images should not have been published at all. Although South Sudan is one of the few countries on the continent that has not signed and ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child or the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which both condemn the commercial sexual exploitation of children, the photographers come from a country that has signed and ratified the latter and therefore should abide by the laws therein.
It is both illegal and unethical to use naked images of minors. What was the motive and purpose of these pictures? Some seem to have been photoshopped. Was there informed consent and understanding of how they were going to be used. What about the proceeds? Was she made aware of her potential? Has she seen her pictures? I can't deny these photos are beautiful, and they draw me in. But it seems they are there for rapacious consumption and not really for the ostensible reason of "learning about the Dinka".
Images like these just deepen the misunderstanding and "otherness"' of people who don't live in our "developed" and privileged context. Frankly I'm tired of western photographers embedding themselves in "tribes" and showing us pictures of exotic peoples living in their natural habitat.
You can't help feeling that this could easily have been about wildlife. It raises the question of who has the power to represent whom, and to whom, for what purpose? Why do we still attach some mystery, strangeness, and other-worldliness to people who are not white and who don't live according to our modernised lifestyles?
Compare this to another form of representation of people. The photographer takes photos of people with quotes and stories about their lives. I love Hony because the stories behind these people are always touching. What is the difference between Hony and the photos of the Dinka? The people are humanised, learn something about them. Here's another example of photography that humanises its subjects, in this case drug addicts. We seem to feel uncomfortable when African lifestyles are exoticised.
We seem to get worried that Africans are being seen as "other". My feeling is that many Africans are ashamed of being different. We are just fighting to fit in to what we have been indoctrinated to believe is "the acceptable" way. We appreciate what we have as beautiful and extraordinary and saleable, and then get angry when a westerner finds them to be so and worth telling the world about. Having lived in the west for more than two decades, there are so many things I find exotic when I go home that the ordinary folk do not appreciate much.
I find myself reaching for my camera all the time, whether it's the green or red head lizards, the colourful birds, the red earth, the traditional dresses, the masquerades, festivals. My brothers find it strange. Perhaps because we are shy to take the initiative to tell these stories exactly the way we want them told, others have no option to tell these stories for us. And no, I am not happy that the story of the Dinka and other African natives are told with them mute.
But have we tried to do it differently? Why do we then get angry when foreigners tell these stories? I agree with Christopher here. We don't want our story told and we don't want to tell it.
Personally I am not offended by these photos and quite frankly I am more comfortable with nudity than with violence. Somehow we demonise the naked human form yet celebrate its destruction, as can be seen in popular media where decapitation is more palatable than full frontal nudity.
There are many communities that are not ashamed of nudity and you will find a whole family taking a bath at a river. The context is what matters. If we had an example of what we would consider a tasteful photo-shoot with the same or similar subjects done by an African photographer then we could compare and decide what is "othering" and what isn't.
An African photographer might ask their names and a little about their lives. That would make them more human than using them as nameless features of South Sudan. Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher's agent said the pair are on "an expedition" and not available to comment on this discussion. Early on in our work in Africa, we set up a charitable foundation to help and assist people with whom we work - with projects which they themselves feel essential to their future survival, such as building schools and clinics, digging wells, developing women's craft projects, providing food during drought, assisting Dinka and other minority group students with secondary school and university education.
These are but a few of the projects we have developed over the past 34 years, using funds from our lectures, the sale of photographs and project specific fundraising. When we get to know and appreciate a group of people, which we share with the world through our books and images, we care about what happens to them.
We care deeply about the ethnic groups with whom we have lived and worked — we have dedicated our lives to sharing their powerful beliefs, rituals, lifestyles and cultural traditions with the world at large. We want future generations of Africans to know where they came from and what their grandparents believed. We hope to leave our archive of the cultural heritage of Africa, 40 years in the making, and still ongoing, to future generations who care about who we are as human beings, where we have come from, and where we are heading.
Chris Ejugbo To me, these photos are beautiful works of art. Facebook Twitter Pinterest. Topics South Sudan Guardian Africa network. Indigenous peoples Photography Africa Race Rihanna analysis. Reuse this content. Order by newest oldest recommendations. Show 25 25 50 All.
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