Pentaxploitation: do photography and social change really go together?

NetSquared's picture

In the 19th century, do-it-yourself x-ray kits became hugely popular as people x-rayed their own boots, hands, and plants (not to mention weirder stuff) to find out what the invisible world really looked like. Wired's Alexis Madrigal has a great article series with links to San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art's Brought To Light: Photography and the Invisible exhibit exploring these DIY pictures as part of the social consequences of x-rays and photography of the period.

Speaking about the exhibit, Madrigal asks 'What are the social consequences when science allows us to see things that had previously been invisible?' This gets at what I think is a key problem for social change oriented photography.

Collective Lens is a website that promotes photography for social change. Anyone can upload a photo, submit an essay, search for photos and organizations or follow up on causes they've discovered through the sites' photos. Websites like this one are doing their best to address up front the perception that photography and social change don't go hand in hand.

Why the perception? As Collective Lens contributor Andris Bjornson points out in his article on 'Giving Back To Your Subjects', photography often involves taking a less-fortunate person's picture and not giving anything back.

Case in point: in 1994 South African photographer Kevin Carter won a Pulitzer prize for his photo of a starving and collapsed Sudanese toddler being followed by vultures.   He came under heavy criticism for taking the photo, instead of helping the child. (More...)