Photographer apologises after ‘Dreaming Food’ series on India criticised as ‘poverty porn’

Italian photographer Alessio Mamo had recently shared his photo series on World Press Photo's Instagram handle. The series received backlash online as it showed faces poor people standing in front of tables decorated with fancy food.

By: Trends Desk | New Delhi | Updated: July 26, 2018 9:14:55 am

Alessio Mamo, world press photo, world press photo instagram, world press photo controversy, poverty porn controversy, India poverty controversy, India starvation poverty controversy, India poverty porn Instagram photos, Indian express, Indian express news The photographs showcased in the “Dreaming Food” series were taken in various parts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh and aimed to conceptually project the hunger issues in India. (Source: worldpressphoto/Instagram)

An award-winning Italian photographer Alessio Mamo, who was recently criticised for his depiction of poverty and hunger in India, has responded with an explanatory letter published on Medium. “The people I photographed were living in a village and they were not suffering from malnutrition anymore, they were not hungry or sick, and they freely participated in the project,” clarified the freelance photographer.

ALSO READ | ‘Poverty porn’: Twitterati slam Italian photographer’s depiction of hunger in India

Mamo had shared his photo series on World Press Photo’s Instagram handle. The series showed different people standing with their faces covered by hands in front of a table decorated with fancy food. The photographs showcased in the “Dreaming Food” series were taken in various parts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh and aimed to conceptually project the hunger issues in India.

Read the complete statement here:

“My statement on Dreaming Food

“Dreaming Food” is a project I developed independently in 2011. It was one of my first photographic projects of my career. At that time I was obsessed by the food thrown away especially in Christmas time. So I thought to develop a project about this issue but in a different way. The idea was to create a contrast between a typical Western table with luxurious food in a poor context that could emphasize this contrast. I was in touch with an Indian organization, that I supported economically later (I will not mention them in order to protect them and their work) who helped me logistically to develop the project. They are present in the north and working for years fighting discrimination especially against women, Dalit and vulnerable people, and supporting them in many levels. Their work is recognized worldwide. So when I went to India for my second time in 2011, together we went to the places of the pictures. Anytime we went into villages we used to spend time meeting people, speaking with them and eating together. After I explained the idea of the project and found the volunteers we prepared our set. Most of the people enjoyed spontaneously to be part of this and photographed behind the table. The people I photographed were living in a village and they were not suffering from malnutrition anymore, they were not hungry or sick, and they freely participated in the project.

I never published this series in a magazine but this work received the “Coup de cœur” at the International Festival of Photojournalism Visa pour l’Image 2012 (Perpignan, France) where it was shown, exhibited at the Delhi Photo Festival in 2013, and in Paris in 2014 I was invited by the staff of La Quatrieme Image to exhibit this photos series. I never received any award or money for this.

The only goal of the concept was to let western people think, in a provocative way, about the waste of food. Maybe it did not work at all, maybe I did it in the wrong way, but I worked honestly and respectfully with all the people involved. I only had the intention to let people think about this issue.

I’m a human being and I can make mistakes. I want to offer my deepest apologies to anyone who felt offended and hurt by this photos, and to the people I photographed. It was not my intention at all to discredit them. I’m in love with India and with the people. I’m always open to be criticised in my work, but I have never in my life felt hate like the comments directed at me in recent days.”

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