Thursday, July 30, 2015

Podcast examines if Appalachian photo essay was 'documentary photography or poverty porn'

The photo essay "Two Days in Appalachia" that appeared in Vice earlier this month has sparked controversy about its depiction of people in Eastern Kentucky. Scott Finn of West Virginia Public Broadcasting asks, "Did Vice send photographer Bruce Gilden to Appalachia to make us look like freaks? And how does this feed into existing stereotypes of people here?" (Gilden photo: Harlan, Ky.)

Finn discusses the photo essay on his podcast, The Front Porch, along with guests Rick Wilson of the American Friends Service Committee, Laurie Lin of the Charleston Daily Mail and photographer Roger May of Looking at Appalachia.

"I think he was searching out images that kind of make people look like circus freaks," Finn said. "I think they were photographed in a way to make them look freaky. Is it documentary photography or poverty porn?"

While May said Gilden stayed true to his aggressive photography style of getting up close and personal with gritty, often unattractive photos, he said that style was inappropriate in this situation. May said, "When you consider the history of photographic works in Appalachia, that is not a good fit for the region, in my opinion . . . I take issue with people being used as props."

To listen to the podcast, click here.

No comments: