This follows on from ‘Part 1’ and won’t make sense if you have not read that first!
I understand your position and it is unfortunate, because without the use of logos and branding I am not going to be able to create what I need to create (namely [insert ideas that you will see implemented on the site in the coming months which will benefit worthy causes]). Without visual icons it cannot possibly work. I hope to be able to generate the traffic, but without icons I will not be able to channel it productively.
The photo you refer to is of a child being dried and massaged by his grandfather, having bathed in the River Ganges, Varanasi, India. After being dried off, his whole body was oiled to prevent his skin drying out (the photo). As for his nakedness, such scenes abound on western beaches every summer and are the cultural norm for children in India, when bathing (or often otherwise). I have not once seen a swimming costume in Varanasi and, while people do not flaunt their nakedness, they are not paranoid about it either.
I find it a little worrying that we invariably associate nakedness with a loss of dignity, ‘harm’ or exploitation, as it is usually not the case (it also ignores perfectly valid cultural variances and preferences that have no deleterious effect on anyone). Sadly, the current western fixation with sexual abuse (which does not necessarily have anything to do with nakedness) seems to be casting our own society back to the regimented and inflexible mindset of a new Victorian era. We seem oblivious to all that we are losing in our clumsy ‘catchall’ approach to the issue. I am of course as appalled by child abuse as anyone, but that issue has nothing to do with what I have discussed, or photographed.
I photographed that particular scene in the way I did precisely because it had such an impact upon me. It was ambiguous and I hoped that it would challenge the very preconceptions we are now discussing, but with a more open-minded and ultimately positive response. My reaction to the scene was one of warmth to the core, seeing the tenderness with which the man looked after this little boy (it was clear who was the prince and who was the servant!) and it was one of the most ’simply loving’ adult child relationships I have ever observed, anywhere. I can’t help but feel that something very dear has been lost to our own culture. It is a terrible shame and I say this as a father of two young boys.
Regarding Ali Reza injecting heroine, once again, this is a documentary piece. ‘It’ (what is depicted in general or specific terms) is a fact that neither I nor anyone else would support, condone, or deny, which is rather the point. Ironically, is the promulgation of factual reporting – the wider journalistic realm if you like – that helps shape the wider context of interest within which XXXX and other charities are operating. In turn, money flows to the people who need it and we can be grateful for that. Journalism shapes perceptions; perceptions which cultivate a desire to bring about change (with charities and other organisations effecting that change) and so I do not understand XXXX’s desire to sanitise and disassociate itself from the very issues it seeks to address. This seems self-defeating, or at least not in the interests of those we are surely seeking to help. I didn’t gain the trust of the city’s heroin addicts for three years by exploiting them, I can assure you. Rather it was my promise never to do so and to tell only the stories they wished to be a heard. Ali Reza and others wanted to no longer be invisible. Sadly, XXXX’s desire to disassociate themselves form such material runs contrary to the expressed wishes of the individuals photographed. This seems rather ironic.
I could be worried by the suggestion that I may be considered a “company [or person] that has a history or instance of unethical conduct”, or that as a documentary photographer I should only depict scenes where western standards are being met (what would be the point in that?), but realise that XXXX and documentary photography, in general, appear incompatible. It seems XXXX cannot regard my activities as that of a ‘reporter’, but instead is associating the subject matter with some sort of ‘consent and support’ on my part and is afraid of a similar association with yourselves. This is despite my clear intention to try to generate income so you can receive more funds to change the very issues some of my activities discuss or depict. It runs contrary to the whole purpose of documentary photography. This strikes me as shocking and disappointing on a level that is difficult to articulate without sounding melodramatic. I think you are grossly underestimating the intellectual sophistication of the public; however, it seems our differing positions are what they are.
Nevertheless, I appreciate your time and consideration H, but have no choice but to build relationships only with charities where I can have a full and realistic relationship and where I can deliver the sort of benefits that will see a difference made on the ground, where it matters.
PS. Have you seen Sebastiao Salgado’s ‘Genesis’ exhibition in London? I ask, because there are multiple images of naked individuals, including adolescent women. There appears to be no controversy surrounding that, despite a world tour and being shown in the London Natural History Museum, covered by most of the world’s media (including the BBC). In this case, one of the most powerful media institutions in the world appears happy to work with Salgado to generate support for the lives and cultures of those depicted.
The charity’s response really bothered me. It also struck me as rather unintelligent and somewhat insulting to those individuals capable of thinking for themselves. I feel rude and combative saying this, but it all strikes me as perhaps typical of policies one would expect from a London HQ, where the vast majority of the staff have vey comfortable lives and have little contact with the actual delivery of services on the ground…. a place where policy and reality do not meet in the middle. I remain hopeful that I will receive greater support in my future approaches!