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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Is including the Defecating Person in a photo a bad taste?

Definitely, yes! This is how 59-year-old nurse, mother and Filipino Naomi Billard reacted to this poster (see above) entitled Manila, showing the poverty in an area in Quezon City, taken by German photographer Stephan Schubert, and conspicuously posted in a busy Stuttgart rail station in Germany as part of a photo exhibition called "Metropolis" or "Cities of the World."

While it brought home the message of poverty, this photograph sufficiently bothered Naomi on two points. One, it is the invasion of the privacy of the person doing his thing at the edge of the concrete pavement (lower left of the photo), an artistic decision that is tantamount to robbing this toilet-less poorest of the poor his DIGNITY. And two, the photographs of other countries come in at least two and "depict skyscrapers soaring towards the heavens, masses of people on overfilled streets – mega-cities teeming with life."*

This writer is in one voice with Naomi. 

As both a writer and a photo enthusiast, I understand how a photograph can send millions of reactions depending on the context on which it is used (here, it is Metropolis) and taken by the viewer (the details included). But a writer in me understands freedom of expression as well as artistic license, and sometimes, there is an essential need to accompany photographs with the right caption in order for the readers/viewers to understand the intent of the photographer.   

On the first point, the photograph and the issues on privacy brought to mind the privacy asserted by the nude photograph of public figure Kate Middleton which were taken by the paparazzi while she is having her sunbathing in a very private spot. This created countless reactions, ranging from finger-pointing to her for doing the nude thing knowing that she is always followed by the public and to the commercialization and sensationalization of tabloid magazines which fuel the photographers to commit "bad taste" journalism. The last thing that I recalled of of this issue is that the tabloid was fined.

My point in bringing this is that high profile and public figures can assert privacy and make the public reconsider things. How about us, Filipinos? Are we not correct in vehemently reacting in behalf of this nameless-and-faceless-but-whose-bottoms-are-facing-us person? Are we not correct in putting into issue that the photographer, despite his artistic license, has evidently invaded the personal space of the defecating person without his permission? On the photograph above, we can see that the person on the bottom left thought that he is given some privacy by a plywood in front of him without knowing that he is being violated from behind.

On the second point, while as Filipino citizens, we are not mute-and-blind or hypocrites to the evident poverty pervading our country, we are also aware that our country is also often victimized with misrepresentation. Clearly, our city is misrepresented by the photographer who showed one facet and left out another facet of our capital city: a buzzling metropolis, true to the theme of the exhibit.

We can never be heard unless we clamor. This is what Naomi Billard did in our favor. 

*Taken from the translation of an article on the clamor of Naomi Billard calling for the removal of the poster published in a local paper called Stuttgarter Nachrichten. 

*More articles on these topic. Please check out this blog again later.
*Translation of the article from German to English as provided by Naomi Billard
*Photos of other countries, to bring home the point of the Philippines being misrepresented in an exhibit with the theme "Metropolis" or "Cities of the World." 
*The photograph and the message to Philippine government