'I’m Human and I Can Make Mistakes': Italian Photographer Apologises After Indian Hunger Series Faces Backlash
Photographed by Alessio Mamo, the series featured impoverished people in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in India standing in front of a table with food with their hands over their eyes.
Image credits: World Press Photo / Instagram
Alessio Mamo, the Italian photographer whose food series on hunger in India became the subject of Internet outrage, has issued an apology to those "offended and hurt" by his photos, and the subjects of his photographs.
Titled 'Dreaming Food,' the series featured impoverished people in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in India standing in front of a table with food with their hands over their eyes.
The portrayal of the people led to social media outcry, perhaps rightfully so - with several people pointing out how the entire concept of taking the pictures was flawed, and privileged and perhaps exploitative way of looking at the issue.
These photographs are from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh two of the poorest states of India. From the series "Dreaming Food", a conceptual project about hunger issue in India. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ [This project has been the subject of much online debate. Please read Alessio Mamo’s statement, released on 24 July 2018, giving more details and apologising for any offence: https://email@example.com/my-statement-on-dreaming-food-7169257d2c5c] ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ My name is Alessio Mamo (@alessio_mamo) an Italian freelance photographer based in Catania, Sicily. In 2008 I began my career in photojournalism focusing on contemporary social, political and economic issues. I extensively cover issues related to refugee displacement and migration starting in Sicily, and extending most recently to the Middle East. I was awarded 2nd prize in the People Singles category of #WPPh2018 and this week I’m taking over World Press Photo's Instagram account. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Despite economic growth, a majority of the Indian population still lives in extreme poverty and disease. Behind India’s new-found economic strength are 300 million poor people who live on less than $1 per day. Government figures may indicate a reduction in poverty. But the truth is, with increasing global food prices, poverty is spreading everywhere like a swarm of locusts. These pictures are taken in rural areas where conditions are worse than in the cities and where close to 70% of India’s population reside today. Statistics show that 2.1 million children under 5 years old die of malnutrition annually. The idea of this project was born after reading the statistics of how much food is thrown away in the West, especially during Christmas time. I brought with me a table and some fake food, and I told people to dream about some food that they would like to find on their table. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #WPPh2018#asia #dreamingfood #india
The photo series was met with severe backlash on social media.
What’s it gonna take for the photojournalism industry to stand up and put a stop to this type of repeated exploitation co-signed by the most prestigious photo contest? boycotting @WorldPressPhoto events, contests and workshops? https://t.co/gCzJ1NjLob — Kainaz Amaria (@kainazamaria) July 22, 2018
'I bought with me a table and some fake food and I told people to dream about what food they would like to find on the table.' Even by @WorldPressPhoto exploitative standards. Even with their lack of editorial integrity this is really something else.https://t.co/Z47d40VNGD pic.twitter.com/ZghhM8UTbo
— duckrabbit (@duckrabbitblog) July 22, 2018
In his statement, Mamo said the idea behind his independent project was to highlight the wastage of food and to emphasise on the "contrast between a typical Western table with luxurious food in a poor context."
"The only goal of the concept was to let western people think, in a provocative way, about the waste of food. Maybe it did not work at all, maybe I did it in the wrong way, but I worked honestly and respectfully with all the people involved. I only had the intention to let people think about this issue," he wrote.
Acknowledging that he may have erred in his endeavour, Mamo wrote, "I’m a human being and I can make mistakes."
He further wrote that he was open to criticism but had never felt hate like the comments directed at him in the recent days.
Earlier, World Press Photo responded had responded to the outrage in a Medium post claiming how, "Being a platform we do not limit photographer’s choices beyond the guidelines provided, and we ask the photographers to respond directly to the audience when questions arise."
Our Instagram account is a platform for photographers in our community to use. We have guidelines for photographers who takeover the account. You can read those guidelines, and our statement about Alessio Mamo's takeover last week, here: https://t.co/EbZGnesx3s — World Press Photo (@WorldPressPhoto) July 23, 2018
You can read Mamo's entire statement here.
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