Alessio Mamo posted the much-criticised series of photos on the Instagram account of World Press Photo.
New Delhi: A series of photographs by an award-winning Italian photographer seeking to show underprivileged Indians alongside fake food has been widely discredited as “poverty porn”.
Alessio Mamo posted the series, titled ‘Dreaming Food’, on the Instagram account of World Press Photo, an Amsterdam-based non-profit that holds a renowned annual contest for stand-out journalistic images from around the world.
The winner of World Press Photo 2018, Sicily-based Mamo took over the foundation’s Instagram account Sunday.
The photos, according to Mamo, were inspired by statistics on the amount of food thrown away in the West and the number of Indian children dying of malnutrition annually.
As part of the project, Mamo placed fake food in front of locals in rural Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, and asked them to “dream about what food they would like on their table”, an idea that has been panned as “exploitative”.
Veteran photojournalist Raghu Rai referred to Mamo as a “vulture in hardcore journalism”.
“This is the most cruel and obnoxious way of portraying something like this. Creative people are known for their subtleties and sensitivities. If this is his view of visual art, then it is simply horrendous,” Rai told ThePrint.
“These images remind me of the images of the Bengal famine of 1943, in a perverse way. The representation of black and brown skin hasn’t changed since. Now it’s just conceptual, where hunger is created through artifice,” Amit Madheshiya, winner of World Press Photo 2011, told ThePrint.
“What is most disturbing is the fact that we don’t even know if these people are going hungry. It seems to be another case of Europeans imposing their idea of poverty and hunger in India on our country,” he added.
“We need to remember World Press Photo is an organisation based in Europe. It has a western outlook,” said Madheshiya, adding, “But at the same time, they are very conscious of it. They try to be inclusive and include various perspectives.”
“The pictures are problematic in so many ways. If the idea was to talk about food that is being wasted, why not take photographs in your own country? Moreover, why not photograph the hungry in the West?” he added.
Pablo Bartholomew, another former World Press Photo winner, told the ThePrint, “I haven’t seen the series. But it isn’t necessary that the organisation has remained the same over the years. They may stand for different things now.”