In 2004, a photograph from Brazil became famous globally for its depiction of a center and a periphery that directly faced each other, calling the viewer’s attention to their physical proximity. The Brazilian photographer Tuca Vieira had captured an image of São Paulo’s elite neighborhood of Morumbi next to the lower-income neighborhood of Paraisópolis which, despite its cultural specificity, attracted worldwide attention due to its shock value. The seemingly indiscriminate popularity of images of poverty such as Vieira’s raise questions about representation: to whom are they really addressed, given that there is little control over who receives them, and what kind of dialogue can they establish with this audience? The fine line between sensationalizing poverty and ethically exposing it to promote social change is particularly relevant here, making even more relevant the parallel question of who produces representations of poverty: who wants to produce and consume them, and who has control over the narrative created about them?
September 20, 2022