Two Tweets, Two Different Takes on People

by Sonya de Laat

The Tweets:

UN Refugee Agency @Refugees Refugees. Ordinary people living through extraordinary times. Share Tahir’s story this #‎WRD trib.al/AaBPuqW pic.twitter.com/aOFOjAFPPc

Maptia @Maptia The Dani still wear penis sheaths, but they also keep their savings in banks: http://bit.ly/1e62clk by @Vlad_Sokhin

On June 11, two tweets came through my feed in close succession. Initially, both struck me as encouraging: they appeared to be moving toward more nuanced representations and away from flat, one-dimensional stereotypes. Upon closer inspection, the UN Refugee post about an “Architect. Husband. Builder.” is indeed about rendering refugees less hopeless and different. The photos of the Dani, on the other hand, continue the tradition in many photographic practices of exaggerating exoticism. The photographs by Vald Sokhin, a photographer represented by Panos, an agency dedicated to photography for social justice, are carefully composed portraits of individual Dani in traditional dress along with a prop of contemporary globalized life, e.g., can of pop or bank machine.