Who's Going Hungry?

| 6/24/2008 11:53:05 AM

Kath PiyaThe food crisis has captured international attention, but the coverage is stripping hungry individuals of their dignity by portraying them without names or narratives in photographs that may refer to them only as “scavengers,” writes Karen Coates for Words Without Borders.

“What really irks me is when the photograph captions have no names,” writes Coates, a Words Without Borders contributor and Asia correspondent for Gourmet. “You know the shots—the grubby kids with frazzled hair and thin, dark skin stretched across fragile bone.”

Each “nameless kid” has his or her own story of hunger, Coates argues, like 12-year-old Kath Piya (pictured at left). Piya scavenges at the Stung Meanchey dump in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh:

“I eat twice a day,” at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., she said. No breakfast before work. “For dinner I eat rice with salt. Sometimes I eat vegetables and meat, but not usually.” As we chatted, a tourist came up and took her picture, then left without talking to her. Tourists sometimes traipse through the dump for a glimpse of the “real” Cambodia, but this was a rare encounter for Kath Piya. Usually, she said, no one paid much attention to her at all.

Image courtesy of Jerry Redfern.

6/24/2008 7:32:12 PM

that's not much different than all of the thousands of pictures taken of people after Katrina. A very few (and I do mean FEW) were identified. I agree -- each and every one of them has an individual story to tell. With so many great journalists in the world, how can we do such an injustice to these folks as to treat them like a person with no face?

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