With the range of events that are happening across the globe, journalists often find themselves in positions where they are dealing with sensitive topics in foreign environments. Since photography is so strongly associated with journalism, many photojournalists often find themselves in situations where their photos can perpetuate a certain stereotype of that environment. Photojournalists John Moore and Paul Nevin both have examples of stories that reveal how stereotypes can either be subtly revealed or avoided by photojournalism.
From the articles that I read, it seemed that John Moore’s coverage told the story of a country that is unable to handle the Ebola outbreak since they are so underdeveloped. That narrative obviously is something we have heard over and over, enough that we Americans have probably gotten used to it and established that stereotype of those countries in our heads as reality.
The video included in the article focused on his photos that primarily held darkness, violence, tragedy, poverty, and death in the foreground. It even played along with sad piano music. Even though the Ebola outbreak is a terrible thing, there was no focus on how the Liberians were handling it themselves or what progress was made. It mostly seemed like white men were coming in and valiantly doing their best to save a doomed country.
In her TED Talk about the dangers of single stories perpetuating stereotypes, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks about how these false ideas are formed.
“The single story creates stereotype and the problem with stereotype is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete,” said Adichie. “They make one story become the only story.”
Although Moore was doing good work by attracting attention to the seriousness of the situation, he still perpetuated the African stereotype.
Paul Nevin did a better job of avoiding the stereotypes with the Kenyans than Moore did with the Liberians mentioned above. Though there were still issues (the title implies helplessness in the country), Nevin showed the strides that people are taking to improve birth rates in their country.
It has a significantly more optimistic and light tone, and provides plenty of statistics instead of biased observations. The photos also don’t perpetuate the stereotype of African countries only holding violence and death.
The article shows a more personalized and even comedic side. The last photo with the woman holding the fake baby in place for the practice birth is in itself poignant, but will also make you smile. The photo of the woman and her child smiling also brings much more heart to the article.
The article also does a great job of representing and describing PRONTO International. After spending some time on their website, I could see that Nevin described the group accurately. The website states itself:
“We use highly realistic simulation and debriefing to train functional teams in effective communicate and practice change.”
Comparing the Two
Both of these journalists were covering these stories for good reasons. They both wanted to draw attention to what was happening in these countries to bring beneficial change.
Both of these journalists took advantage of their environment and took some very powerful images that portrayed their stories and angles very accurately. In every photo, you can tell there’s a fascinating story behind it.
Even though Moore didn’t quite avoid perpetuating the destitute Africa stereotype, the necessary changes are being made within journalism to portray a more accurate image of African countries, as shown through Paul Nevin’s story.