We are extremely lucky to live in a day and age where freedom of speech is upheld by most societies. Those who have access to this article and the ability to understand the English language can assumably read the words on this page and discuss them with fellow readers without fear of persecution.
This liberty is fundamental to our rights and it should apply to all citizens regardless of their standing in society, the traits they are born with or the decisions they have made throughout their life.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the delicate subject of religion, the upholding this universal right is lackluster at best.
It seems like at the drop of the G-bomb, you must suddenly tip-toe around the conversation holding up a white flag that says “I’m politically correct, don’t hurt me!”
Why is that conversation so unnecessarily uncomfortable?
I take this class during lunchtime every week with a bunch of kids one year above me.
Unlike regular classes, this was more of a teacher led discussion on the dynamics between the media and our society/culture.
I was the only person there in school uniform (last year students get to wear whatever they wanted) and I was shy by nature so for the whole year, I never said a word. That was, until last week, when we discussed female representation in the media. After listening to some analysis on movie blockbusters and hugely successful TV series such as the Hunger Games and Orange is the New Black and debates on whether a few standout pieces with strong female characters equated to better representation or not, I spoke up for the first time about… my little pony.
Hey, give me a chance.
I stand by my point that my little pony is an example of improved female representation in the media.
I stumbled across the show when it was already a big deal on the Internet (with audiences way out of the demographics range) and curiosity drove me to watch the first episode.
Initial thoughts? Not bad at all for a show targeted at kids. So then I ended up watching four seasons in one fell swoop. (Whoops.)
So what was it exactly that drew me to watch 4 whole seasons of this show and how is it in any way representing women in a better light?
I could try explaining it but it is presented perfectly in the words of the executive producer of the first season herself, Lauren Frost.
“I was extremely skeptical at first about taking the job. Shows based on girls’ toys always left a bad taste in my mouth, even when I was a child. They did not reflect the way I played with my toys. I assigned my ponies and my Strawberry Shortcake dolls distinctive personalities and sent them on epic adventures to save the world. On TV, though, I couldn’t tell one girl character from another and they just had endless tea parties, giggled over nothing and defeated villains by either sharing with them or crying–which miraculously inspired the villain to turn nice. Even to my 7-year-old self, these shows made no sense and couldn’t keep my interest. No wonder the boys at school laughed at my Rainbow Unicorn Trapper Keeper.
From what I’ve seen since I’ve grown up, little has changed. To look at the quality of most girls’ cartoons, it would seem that not one artist really cared about them. Not one designer, not one background painter, not one animator. Some of the more well-meaning, more expensive animated productions for girl audiences may look better, but the female characters have been so homogenized with old-fashioned “niceness” that they have no flaws and are unrelatable. They are so pretty, polite and perfect; there is no legitimate conflict and nothing exciting ever happens. In short, animated shows for little girls come across as boring. Stupid. Lame.
This perception, more than anything, is what I am trying to change with My Little Pony.”
Ultimately, a reflection of society is best seen in the values we teach our children right? Thanks to Lauren Frost, my little pony is teaching all the right lessons, here’s how.
A disadvantage of being slightly more open with friends and family about the existence of my blog is feeling like I must censor myself on contentious issues.
Bearing that in mind, I have decided to say a massive f&#k you to consequences and discuss my thoughts on the sex industry.
I have grown up in a relatively sex positive environment and consider myself a liberal at heart. That is why I am a strong proponent of you do what you want, and I do what I want and we will mutually respect each other because we’re decent human beings.
Whether you choose to experience sex before marriage or abstain because you do not feel ready, only do it with one person or do it with a dozen, if it’s something private and exclusive or if you sell it as a commodity, it’s ultimately your choice and nobody else should give a fuck about said choice, unless you want them to… 😉
The obvious answer would be to take photographs, right? Duh. However, it is not that simple. There is a relationship between ethics and photography that we cannot ignore.
Ethics – Moral principles that govern a persons or groups behaviour
So, what is that relationship?
Imagine photography as the slightly macho boyfriend that flirts a bit too much with other women and makes them uncomfortable on a regular basis and ethics is that clingy girlfriend that’s a little bit annoying and very self righteous.
They’re a dysfunctional couple but, hey, somehow they’re still together and you have a sinking feeling that they always will be.
Photographers, especially photojournalists, face a constant dilemma in the face of misfortune: whether to help the victim or document the moment with their camera.
In other words, should they place higher value on being morally correct and save every life they have potential to or should they prioritise capturing the moment to expose the ugly truth of the world we live in for all to see?
I am a firm believer that photographers have a primary duty to observe, capture and share what normal civilians would not be able to see otherwise, with an underlying responsibility to humanity to be able to step out of role and act accordingly to their moral compass when necessary (by necessary I mean there’s absolutely no other choice).
It is in no way the obligation of a photographer to constantly intervene in every disaster they witness. That is not their role to fill. Their role is simply to produce photographs that expose the atrocities of the world.
Perhaps the most iconic example of the conflict between ethics and photography is depicted above.
After discovering a girl who became the potential prey for a wild vulture as she rested on her journey to a United Nations feeding centre, Kevin Carter, a photojournalist, set up his equipment to capture the photograph that would win him the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography a year or so later.
Careful to not disturb the bird, he waited until it was close enough to compose the perfect shot before shooing it away and carrying on with his life, offering no additional aid to the girl whose fate is unknown.
In order to help photojournalists decide whether to intervene or document, the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) composed a “Code of Ethics,” which is, “intended to promote the highest quality in all forms of visual journalism and to strengthen public confidence in the profession” (NPPA).
Some of these are listed below:
Be accurate and comprehensive in the representation of subjects.
Resist being manipulated by staged photo opportunities
Be complete and provide context when photographing or recording subjects. Avoid stereotyping individuals and groups.
Treat all subjects with respect and dignity. Give special consideration to vulnerable subjects and compassion to victims of crime or tragedy. Intrude on private moments of grief only when the public has an overriding and justifiable need to see.
While photographing subjects do not intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or influence events.
Editing should maintain the integrity of the photographic images’ content and context. Do not manipulate images or add or alter sound in any way that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects.
Kevin Carter’s successes lie in not manipulate his photograph. Instead, it was a realistic shot, non staged and without contributing to the events so any reaction to the photo the audience may have is authentic and true to reality. The public reaction to what this photograph portrays is essentially what won him the most prestigious prize in the photojournalism world.
However, some argue that Carter influenced the photograph by passively and intentionally waiting for the vulture to approach the girl in order to get the best photograph possible.
“The man adjusting his lens to take just the right frame of her suffering, might just as well be a predator, another vulture on the scene.”
How can such a criticism be justified when it was his job to capture that photograph so it has maximum impact, provided he did not encourage or influence fate? If it was the type of suffering that needed to be brought to the world’s attention, non-interference prior to the photograph being taken should be morally acceptable. His failure lies in not fulfilling his obligation as a fellow human being to help the girl after taking the shot. He wanted no part in the girl’s fate even though he has fulfilled his vocational task thus directly violating #4 on the list above, showing no compassion for the subject.
The aim of photojournalism and documentary photographers is that of informing society about current issues and that should remain their primary obligation but their humanity should never be completely factored out of the equation and that is something we should discuss on a case by case basis.
The photograph was destined to be controversial from the moment it was composed. After a large amount of media scrutiny, Carter committed suicide two years after receiving the Pulitzer prize. Before succumbing to death via carbon monoxide poisoning, he left a note explaining the suicide: “I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain … of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, of killer executioners.”
His death was not solely due to this specific photo, however, it was definitely a large contributor to the general pain he felt from the things he has seen. It is a burden on the soul to deal with human suffering so intimately for so long and Kevin Carter gave his whole life to photojournalism. He presented reality in the most truthful way, hoping to change the world through increasing society’s awareness of the injustice that exists and therefore despite his mistakes and shortcomings, he should be respected for the work he has produced including this photograph.
Do we really have the right to judge these photographers for the choices they make in these situations where they have but a moment to do the best they can?
I don’t think so. We were not present in that moment to fully comprehend the pressure and struggle of the photographer so we should not criticise their actions so harshly when the intention was to to do good; otherwise, we are potentially breaking a human as punishment for how they did not manage to fix another.
Broadcast journalist Anderson Cooper, who has witnessed tragedy throughout the world, stated, “Even people who are in the midst of grief, even people who are going to die tomorrow want you to know their names. They want to tell you their stories.”
Photojournalists are the microphones for these voices to the world. They force us to not only look but see and take action.
“The photograph is not my problem… it’s yours.”
What is a photographer’s job?
A photographer’s job is to be that mutual friend of photography and ethics, mediating the conflict by telling him to be more considerate of everyone’s feelings and telling her to relax a bit every so often in order to record the stories of the world.
By telling the stories of people whose voices are otherwise silenced, we ultimately increase the potential for change.
Please excuse any grammatical, structural or ideological mistakes in this piece. I’m only human.
What exactly does this phrase mean? Since when have we started believing that being human is inherently less than sufficient?
I am, for the most part, comfortable being an ordinary seventeen year old girl. I was not sent off into the unknown as a baby after my biological parents became aware of the impending destruction of our planet. I did not find a land of talking animals and mythical creatures in my cupboard when I was eight. I was not accepted to a school for witchcraft and wizardry when I was eleven, and I was not bitten by a radioactive spider when I was fifteen.
Everywhere we turn, we are told that the way we were born is not good enough. Companies magnify the imperfections of the human body in order to sell their products. Nobody will reach the standards of Superman or Wonder Woman, but the media has made us desire to recreate this cookie-cutter image in ourselves. Whiten your teeth, straighten your hair, live on a diet of steroids or nothing at all, then maybe, just maybe, you can pretend to be a cheap knock-off version of the unrealistic expectations you’re modelling yourself on.
It is rather sad that we have created, maintained and are enslaved by a society where the way you look determines your status and our status is the most important thing about us.
Unsurprisingly, this phenomenon exists beyond our appearance. We have normalised an all-or-nothing complex in everyday life where the pressure is put on us to meet unrealistic expectations in our area of interest: be a superhero or be a nobody.
The Avengers, a film that has “blasted through nearly every record in cinema history,” blatantly promotes this idea. When alien forces attack New York, the police are shown as completely incompetent. Obviously only those who are blessed with powers that a normal human could never obtain can save the day, right? Forget technology, forget that this is post 9/11 America, forget the training the officers must have received, the sensible option is to idolise these superheroes instead. Clearly anybody that isn’t a superhero is useless.
Some would argue that the point of watching superhero movies is fantasy-fulfillment, to envision yourself as the hero. Nobody wants to be civilian #78 who dies before their existence is even acknowledged. However, rather than believing that the only way to save the day is to put yourself in a pair of shoes that would not fit anyone outside of your own imagination, the solution is to accept who you are, limitations and all, and tackle the issue as best you can.
Hint: The first step is upgrading yourself from being civilian #78 to trained police officer #14.
The truth is that there are no superheroes in real life. There are the physically capable, the mentally gifted and the charismatic. We can’t be 100% talented in all areas but excelling in one field or another is ultimately achievable and human because of the effort we put in. We shouldn’t let other people’s successes define their existence or dampen our own determination. Instead, let’s measure ourselves against our abilities and potential rather than the ‘superhuman’ qualities we assign to others.
There is definitely something broken about us, our culture, when being human morphed to be synonymous with pathetic, helpless, unexceptional and undistinguished. So, next time you make a mistake, don’t say ‘I’m only human.’ When you feel like you are at your limit, don’t think ‘I’m only human.’ Being human is not a disadvantage, it is not a weakness. There is nothing that is ‘only’ about being human.
Embrace the ordinary, embrace the strengths and weaknesses you have and don’t compare yourself with super humans who exist exclusively on screen, paper and within your head. Tell them that you’re doing fine. You don’t need a red cape to save the day yourself.