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DOCUMENTARY STORIES - 1

"Giving Back"

A commission from PLAN International children's charity to work on a project highlighting the newly established UN Rights of the Child  - especially girl children - took me to South East Asia.

I was to report on their varous child welfare projects in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, select children and teach them how to use a Polaroid camera to photograph their own lives. While engaging with the children and their communities - who were all so welcoming and generous - I wanted to give them something back in return.

To literally TAKE photographs of people sometimes feels exploitative. I searched for something to give back and felt slightly better for giving them all copies of my Polaroid photographs of them and continue the mission to tell their life stories.

This project became a personal essay on charity ethics and flagged up deep concerns about the photographing of poverty and how these images are used. The most ethical photojournalist I know, Tom Stoddard (RIP) told me once about the delima of photographing famine.

I want my pictures to embarrass politicians, to make them act, this is famine being used as a weapon of war. You feel angry witnessing this. It shouldn't be happening.

                                                                                                                                        Tom Stoddart, LIFE Spring 1999