Different eyes

Day 98 of 100, Nordjylland, Danmark

If the vast majority of work that is being done is overwhelmingly male, western and of a privileged class, how does that affect our ability to tell stories? Well, I think it does a few things; at the very least it creates a vocabulary of image making that is more restricted. We see what is considered a ‘successful’ photograph or series and that becomes what we emulate and thus the diversity of image creation is stagnated, as well as defined by a white, male western eye. But this isn’t the big issue at hand; the reason the colonialism of photojournalism needs to be combated is because, at it’s very worst, it erodes the foundational ethics and values of photojournalism itself. When the only legitimate voice is a western voice the humanity of people we take photos of is subjugated. Indeed, we take the photograph, giving nothing in return, and de-legitimizing the voices of the very people we are claiming to “[bear] witness to.” – Clary Estes, The Colonialism of Photojournalism

That was an excerpt from a provoking read: The Colonialism of Photojournalism by Clary Estes. She links to and quotes from Tara Pixley’s Why We Need More Visual Journalists and Editors of Color, a thoughtful and most excellent article about bias, and the need for lots of journalists and editors from outside the typical straight, white, male background to contribute to a broader world view, and better representations of the vast range of human life. An excerpt from Tara’s article:

The dual powers that photojournalists and photo editors have as eyewitnesses and curators of knowledge cannot be overstated. We shape the world in our own image: our individual understandings of truth and reality, our personal experiences and backgrounds do play into the scenes we choose to capture, how we frame them and whether we find them deserving of public dissemination. There is so much more to the photographs we take, select, and publish than aesthetics and the reality of any individual moment. Rather, each frame captured is a single millisecond in a sociocultural, historical reality that predates subject, photographer, and viewer. – Tara Pixley, Why We Need More Visual Journalists and Editors of Color

It’s hard not to think about such things when keeping updated on the news, especially on days like today. It’s the fuel we rely on to form our opinions about the world, our neighbours, who to vote for, and what to think about it all.


  1. Niels Jacob Bang-Nielsen says:

    I cannot disagree with the above quotations. It’s pleasure to look at your pictures, which are very vibrant and stemningsfulde, and respectful to the people appearing. I think of your train series from Colombo. And last but not least: to me they are very feminine, which is a quality i wish there would be much more of in photography.

    1. Charlene says:

      Tak Niels. “Stemningsfulde” er en ny ord til mig. Det er en meget fint ord :) Do you mean by feminine, that i don’t do the brute force, Bruce Gilden thing?

  2. Sean Hansen says:

    Indeed! All of us benefit when everyone gets a voice (whether expressed in words or images). As a white, American, male myself, I am often frustrated by those who respond to attempts at diversity and inclusion with the claim that now they can have white power groups that promote “white interests” just like all these other groups promote their interests. Seeking more stories told by women and people of color isn’t about setting up competing, exclusionary groups. It’s about providing the space for everyone’s voice to be heard and for us all to benefit from that. It doesn’t have to be a zero sum game where I can only benefit at someone else’s loss.
    Maybe a more abstract thought, I wonder if I (or anyone) can really find my own, unique voice if I never hear voices that speak beyond what I know. When the white male voice is all there is, can I really find my voice?
    Just some ramblings.
    Thank you for your photographs! And posts!

    1. Charlene says:

      Sean, there’s a TED talk by Michael Kimmel​ “Why Gender Equality Is Good for Everyone — Men Included” where he says that white men are the recipients of the largest affirmative action program in history: The History of the World. It’s a funny talk, but quite a provoking one as well. I think we all have something to gain if we level the playing field, but that’s me. I really do think there’s enough resources for all of us to live or fullest lives and still give others a helping hand.

      It sounds like you’re well on your way to finding said voice, btw.

  3. Niels Jacob Bang-Nielsen says:

    Hi Charlene. It’s a bit difficult to define what makes me experience your pictures as feminine. I think it’s the gentle colours, the shades, that they now and then don’t have to be too sharp, and that they give out an including/rummende feeling. It’s a pleasant way to look at the world.

    1. Charlene says:

      I’m flinching at the feminine stereotype, Niels – both yours and my own, because I understand exactly what you’re saying. It’s a little sad that “masculine” pictures suggest a lack of kindness and/or forgiveness (both emotionally and technically). So I will send a nice link about feminine photographs to enjoy: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/mar/06/women-photograph-war-weddings-and-nightclub-queues :) Have fun!

  4. Niels Jacob Bang-Nielsen says:

    Thank you for the link to women photos. Yes, women produce all kinds og pictures, including very masculine ones. I’m not sure that you understand exactly what I’m saying. For one I have never been of the opinion that masculine photos lacks kindness/forgiveness. Just look at Jan Grarups war zone pictures, the are very masculine, and has a lot of compassion. You too can make masculine photos, as the rather stark picture at the top of this column shows.
    And some of your train pictures from Colombo also has masculine qualities such as directness and focusedness. When pictures shows masculinity balanced with feminine qualities, or the other way round, then they can tell an engaging tale of the human condition. Not everybody can do that, but you can.
    And I think it would be much easier if the terms feminine and masculine weren’t taken so personal.

    1. Charlene says:


      It’s hard, when someone tells you that your pictures are feminine, not to take it personally. Truly! But I didn’t take it as an insult, if that is what you are saying. I’m a little troubled by the way we (and this includes me) definite pictures (and people, and attitudes etc etc) as feminine or masculine. But I am conscious that a lot of our meanings are lost in translation.

  5. Niels Jacob Bang-Nielsen says:

    I’m relieved that you take it personally in a positive way. Honestly. Feminine/masculine is only one way among so many other to talk about pictures. Your pictures just struck me as feminine in a very positive way.

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