Is this what it's like when Western photographers take sad portraits in developing countries?


If you grew up watching television in the United States, you can probably recall a commercial or two calling for donations to help impoverished people in far-off lands, featuring slowly panning shots of remote landscapes, barefoot children and of course, striking, sad eyes

The sorts of images used in some of those ads for charities — like some of Band Aid's efforts — have been condemned for using patronizing and reductive means in order to achieve their goals. As a way to draw attention to some of the harmful stereotypes used in campaigning for Africa, a group called the Norwegian Students' and Academics' International Assistance Fund uses the "Rusty Radiator awards" to raise awareness of how damaging that can be. 

And that's not exclusive to African countries — it's a theme that unfortunately pops up when we talk about suffering in many other parts of the world.

Pakistani comedian Danish Ali made a video to hit back at how suffering in Pakistan — and other developing countries — is portrayed in the Western media. In the short clip, a Western photographer speaks to Pakistanis who have lives that are going great — but really seems to be fixated on finding suffering in their lives. He manages, still, to make their lives seem bleak:

Ali told GlobalPost that he has "lost count" of the number of times when he was confronted with narrow stereotypes of his native country, and he places the blame on how the Western media portrays Pakistan. 

"When I'm abroad it doesn't matter if I'm playing volleyball, or rock climbing, going for a meeting, or a social gathering," he said. "All that the majority of people know about me abroad is that 'oh developing country Muslim he probably hates Western culture, he probably has four wives that he beats every day, I bet he knows about militants and hashish, he must be weird." 

Ali added that he is proud of his country, and hopes that people abroad will see more of what makes him proud to be Pakistani: 

"I suppose this comes from a place of pride in my heart for being a Pakistani and a desire to be recognized as a country of generosity courage and hope," he said.

(H/T Dalia Ezzat)