A message painted on the street after the flood waters had receded. New Orleans, Sunday Sept. 11, 2005.

From 23-24 May, 2016, as part of the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, an exhibition that takes a critical historical approach to looking at humanitarian photography. This exhibit is part of the ODI-HPG ‘Global history of modern humanitarian action’ project.

Beyond icons: subjects and stereotypes in humanitarian photography

Description

Looking at photographs of humanitarian crises, we often get a sense of déjà vu.

This familiarity stems from the repeated use of stereotypical depictions of people-in-crisis over the course of 150 years of humanitarian imagery.

This photo exhibit features a range of ‘icons’, or visual tropes, such as ‘The mother and child’ and ‘The boat people’.

Featuring both historical and contemporary photographs, this exhibit invites critical reflection on how people in emergency settings — from refugees to aid workers to famine victims — are typically portrayed. It also explores the purposes, aims and power dynamics underpinning humanitarian images.

This exhibit is one in a series organised by the World Humanitarian Summit, on the theme of ‘reflections’. It forms part of our ‘Global history of modern humanitarian action’ project and was curated by Valérie Gorin (University of Geneva) and Sonya de Laat (Western University/McMaster University).

Photo credit: Joe Wenkoff/joewenkoff.com

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