We’re missing the story

“Our stories about others tell us more about ourselves” says Anjan Sundaram

 

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Sundaram is a Stringer, who discusses his journeys through Congo and Central Africa and his views on the media.

He thinks that news organizations provide fictionalized stories to a global public. This article caught my interest with a my previous blog post in mind about WITNESS, a human rights organization where I discussed the power of collaboration and multiple viewpoints. Sundaram approaches this idea from the opposite perspective. Sundaram, as a freelancer, inserts himself into uncomfortable situations to incorporate people affected into his journey. This brings up the question that although sometimes you can allow others to tell the story for you with their own digital camera’s and cell phones, is it not important to have an outsider in the picture? Perhaps inserting oneself completely into the other culture, learning their ways, communicating with them as one of them to really get the worlds attention from a unique perspective, utilizing ones skill-set as a reporter.

“I found work as a stringer for The Associated Press, and rented a room from a family in a run-down home in one of Kinshasa’s poorest but most lively areas. The house frequently lacked water and electricity, and neighborhood children would run through it after playing in sewage.

I shared with my host family the only meal they ate each day. I helped draw the curtains and hid with them when a band of street boys pillaged our neighborhood. I was present when their baby first crawled.

My proximity to people was essential to my reporting. They were as surprised as I was by news of a rape or a political killing — especially if it wasn’t in the war-torn east of the country.

But the world outside is rarely surprised by a Congolese death. Those same rapes and killings were not deemed important enough to make news. Ignored, they were soon forgotten. The world saw Congo as a violent place, but not worth reporting on, unless the story was spectacular and gruesome.”

This piece of writing has made me imagine Sundaram as a photographer, putting himself into the very war-torn situations that he used to read about in his local new paper. Photographer’s are trained to make emotive and seductive images. If these connections built with the other culture changes a photographer involved entirely, then they can create some pretty amazing photographs about their personal journey that might inspire others. I am interested in the varying styles of photography that come out of these places and how these different styles each reflect a unique experience.

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