In one of our first group discussions, Sunita brought up an article which talked about taking precaution in taking pictures and watching what you post from a volunteerism trip, which relates to our class discussion on them. After reading her post on this, I did some research and found another article by Pacific Standard Magazine called #InstagrammingAfrica. This article is similar to the one Sunita used, but it has some new information in it and I want to voice some additional things as well.
The main thing that I would like to point out is how social-media is often a place where people put up a fake curtain or wall of what they want people to see and how they want to be viewed by others. This is clearly a problem with medical voluntourism. The article jokingly states “a six-day visit to a rural African village can completely change a woman’s Facebook profile picture” and “I don’t think my profile photo will ever be the same, not after the experience of taking such incredible pictures with my arms around those small African children’s shoulders”. While these quotes are clearly jokes, they are actually exposing why many people go on these trips. I believe that there are too many people that go on these trips for the wrong reasons.
I am a freelance photographer, and often have a camera in hand during my free time. One thing I believe whole heartedly in is capturing moments as they happen, not making them. While this may seem somewhat unrelated, let me explain. I always focus on what is happening around me, the people I’m with and what I am experiencing, and never try and let the camera get in the way of enjoying that moment. If you apply this to people on voluntourism trips, some people are on these trips to make those moments. Instead of just being present with the communities they are visiting and trying to make an impact in their lives, they are also making sure they snap a selfie with a few children in the village to post on instagram. In the article, author Lauren Kascak says this of an experience taking a photo while on a trip, “I’m beaming in the photograph, half towering and half hovering over these children. I do not know their names, they do not know my name, but I directed a friend to capture this moment with my own camera. Why?”. This question really stuck out to me, and I think more people need to stop and ask themselves, “why?”. In Laurens case, there was no need to take a picture with two strangers. Now, if they had been sick while she was there and she was taking care of them throughout the trip while they returned to health, that would be a moment worth capturing. I’m not trying to say not to take any sort of pictures at all, but what I am trying to say is to not let the camera get in the way of why you are really there.