Dahn, This is Brought to You By the Letter “J”

As I read through parts of Cramerotti’s “Aesthetic Journalism: How to Inform Without Informing,” I was intreagued on how Fay, as an artist, would respond to this information. Fay did not disappoint with his “An ABC of Aesthetic Journalism” located at the following link:


I chose to read and respond to the entry for the letter “J” since it was about journalism. What I found to be the most interesting part of the entry was the last part of it that went with the video clip. (The video clip can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yREqd8QYtsQ) Having traveled Ghana for three weeks in the past, I found myself looking at the media and photographers’ response to poverty and the situations similar to that of those in Africa. It had never occurred to me that the media is in the business to make money off of others misfortunes and suffering from things such as poverty or natural disaster.

After watching Martens’ episode three trailer (the above posted YouTube link), I began to wonder if he as an artist was exploiting those underprivileged Africans for his own work, just as the media was doing, but just taking a different payment? One is not shown him explaining the deeper meaning behind his project, just that the word “Poverty” must be displayed in English for the audience. He alludes to his audience that these Africans knew the deeper meaning and were passionate about it, but at the same time when one watches carefully it is clear that they are reading off of a cue card of some sort. I understand that this is just meant to act as a trailer of sorts, but despite this, I found myself questioning the over all justification of it all.

In Fay’s “J Category” he quotes Marten’s saying,

I find it a very hypocritical situation. Not because journalists and photographers would be just a gang of profiteers exploiting others’ poverty by turning it into attractive or impressive images and making piles of money, but because none of the profits that these images generate return to the people that deliver the raw material: the poor allowing themselves to be filmed. This makes the exploitation of filmed and photographed poverty a perfect double (analogy) for rubber, coltan or slave labour. The economical value of these phenomena is denied to the local population, and consequently, they get hardly anything in return.

What struck me as odd about this statement is that Marten’s claims the travesty of it all is that these people are used with no gain for themselves, but yet I saw no gain for them in his trailer besides the publicity he would gain. Should one choose to say that through his publicity they themselves are gaining pubicity, I make the argument that while that may be so, when photographers takes images of such people and situations and publish them for a profit, are those people and situations still not gaining publicity? I understand that Marten is trying to gain publicity for these people to make a statement about outside influences on their lives and the global conglomeration that Africa is becoming, but did anything change? Did these people he was trying to help grasp the greater meaning behind his art piece, and did his intended audience of the English speaking world care?

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