There’s something I’ve thought about for quite some time. Whether it’s countries in Latin America, Asia, or the Middle East, why do we only see images that show these parts of the world in a negative light? It’s mainly the mainstream portraying the doom and gloom, but even documentary photographers tend to focus on the pain rather than the pleasure. The results are damaging, and it’s time for the photography industry to help drive change.
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Photos of Developing Nations
I have been fortunate enough to visit many parts of the world. India, Europe, South East Asia, and most of the American continent have been core parts of my travel. And I’ve had the thrill of making photographs at every moment along the way.
But here’s the thing. When I tell people, for example, I’m going to New York, they say, “Oh my god, I love New York. It’s magical!” When, however, I say I’m going to Mexico City, the general response is, “Please be careful. It’s so dangerous.” And yes, Mexico isn’t without its issues, but those issues don’t define the country.
Nor are the likes of New York, London, and Los Angeles without their problems. I’ve been to all three, and there are certainly some areas I feel as equally unsafe in as when I’m in certain parts of developing countries.
So, why does one city make someone glow, and another make them cower at the thought of going there? Well, I implore you to visit any of the mainstream news websites around the world. Search “Mexico” (or any other developing country), and I’m sadly confident about what you will see: endless photos of suffering, war, mass immigration, and poverty. And while those issues are important and real, they don’t paint the full picture of many developing nations.
Some may argue it’s not all doom and gloom. They’ll recommend to check out the travel sections, where beautiful (and likely heavily photoshopped) photos of developing nations can be found. Again, that’s true. However, we all know that travel sections are sub-sections of major publications. Not as many eyes get to see the contrast.
That’s why many people believe anything outside of a western nation (or one with western values) must be nothing short of the wild west. Well, I’m here to tell you they’re wrong.
Uplifiting Photos of Developing Nations
Take Mexico City as an example. Rome Norte and Condesa are absolutely stunning. That’s not compared to only the rest of Mexico; it’s compared to the rest of the world. Take a look.
How about Colombia? You know, the country that’s only about hard drugs and sex? It’s one of the most beautiful countries on earth. Again, take a look.
What Can We Do?
There are a couple of ways we can drive change and stop putting shame on countries that are just as beautiful as any other country in the world. The first (and least likely) would be for the mainstream media to stop fear-mongering 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and put some positive spins in front of the eyes of the people. The likes of the U.S. and the U.K. should stop taking any opportunity they can to say, “look how much better we are.” Those nations are not free of their issues, yet they expect everyone to think they’re the gold standard of a functioning country.
The second approach comes down to the photographer. I’m sent so many documentary photography projects that show the pain and suffering of developing nations. They’re accompanied with the message that the world needs to see this. It does, but it’s not all we need to see. I want to see documentary photographers send more positive messages about nations perceived to be in perpetual struggle. I want happiness and beauty, and I want more uplifting messages.
Please don’t misconstrue this as me wanting to ignore the negatives. I don’t. But so many amazing countries and cities get overlooked because of the way they are portrayed photographically. Not everyone is fearless (and a little naive) like I am. They avoid certain nations because they think they’re nothing but warzones. It’s sad. And it does the beautiful people and countries they live in a real injustice. Thanks for reading.