Viewing Restricted: [re]presenting poverty
6 May - 14 June 2009
The Atrium, LSE
A major new photographic exhibition and public events series exploring poverty and its portrayal in five global cities is being launched at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), providing an important new perspective and challenging perceptions of 'the poor'.
Five photographers have been selected from an international open competition to discover artists with innovative approaches and a willingness to deconstruct their interpretations of poverty in London, Mumbai, New York, Istanbul and Shanghai.
The exhibition, Viewing Restricted: [re]presenting poverty, is accompanied by a public event series at LSE that will investigate changing ways of picturing the world and the implications for NGOs, policy makers, artists, the media, and 'poor people' themselves.
The series begins on 6 May with a public panel discussion entitled How the 'Poor' Become 'Poor' - Debating Global Civil Society and Constructions of Poverty. This event will launch the 2009 Global Civil Society Yearbook with its cutting edge-research on this year's theme of poverty and activism.
'Photography has possibly been the single biggest influence in informing perceptions of poverty, presenting us with images as diverse as starvation in Africa to obesity in the Bible Belt,' said Dr Hakan Seckinelgin, research associate at LSE's Centre for the Study of Global Governance (CSGG) and lecturer in the Social Policy Department.
'If images present a narrow, stereotypical view, or do not tell the "whole story", then what implications does that have for our understanding of other people's experiences, for aid agency and government policies, and the issues surrounding complex process such as poverty?' questioned Dr Seckinelgin.
Although conceived before the global recession, Viewing Restricted's new photography - contrasted with rarely seen archive images depicting poor people over the last few hundred years - adds an intriguing perspective to the current economic crisis.
Among the selected photographers are award-winning Jessica Dimmock of New York, who has photographed gunshot-wound patients trapped by their paralysis and circumstances in a public hospital minutes, and yet a world away, from glittering Manhattan.
The London element of Viewing Restricted is captured by Manchester-based Mishka Henner, who returned to Hackney where he once worked as a community worker for a regeneration charity, to record this teeming paradoxical borough in a provocative presentation of the wealthy and impoverished, surreally juxtaposed with advertising and government slogans.
Mishka Henner said: 'For some, London is a playground of excess offering the promise of social mobility, but for others, it is a bureaucratic nightmare preventing self-determination and basic rights such as shelter and employment. With social exclusion and isolation becoming increasing factors in deprivation, I've tried to show these through highlighting our relationship to the urban environment rather than relying solely on representing the poor.'
Mindful of charges of voyeurism and objectification, Viewing Restricted tackles the perennial problems of such representations by making personal testimonies of the artists and their subjects an intrinsic element.
Mumbai is interpreted by Subhash Sharma, a native Mumbaiker, who grew up surrounded by the often contrasting reality and imagery of the city's oft-recorded poverty. 'The poor have always been represented in images at their places of work in miserable conditions or in their small over-crowded shanties struggling with life,' said Subhash. 'So normally it's difficult to visualize and imagine that the poor too, like all others, entertain themselves and have a basic need to enjoy themselves in whatever little time they get from their back-breaking jobs.'
'I wanted to show the poor living their lives, enjoying themselves in whatever small way they can afford, given their meagre resources. I feel representing the poor in their moment of joy is a welcome change and can helps people understand poverty in a different context.'
Viewing Restricted comprises new photography:
JESSICA DIMMOCK captures the lives of patients, many paralysed 'veterans of the US drug war', others simply homeless, and all trapped in a public hospital hidden in the heart of New York and cheek-by-jowl with Manhattan's middle classes.
MISHKA HENNER exposes the hidden mechanisms keeping rich and poor divided in his journey through the public and private spaces of an inner London borough.
SHARRON LOVELL charts the experiences of migrant families to Shanghai in a powerful multimedia presentation they helped to edit.
SUBHASH SHARMA joins poor Mumbaikers' on their day off, revealing the varied pleasures of leisure in this churning megapolis of troubles and charms.
ALI TAPTIK traces contentious redevelopment projects in historic districts of Istanbul such as Sulukule, staying on the border between public and private.
Viewing Restricted: [re]presenting poverty is free and open to all, Mon-Fri, 10am-6pm, the Atrium, Student Services Centre, LSE, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE.
Note to Editors
Viewing Restricted is organised by LSE's Centre for the Study of Global Governance in collaboration with LSE Arts. It is supported by the LSE Annual Fund and a loan of equipment from Harvard International plc.
It will be launched on 6 May 2009, with a panel discussion followed by a reception in LSE's Atrium Gallery, 8-9.30pm. The panel discussion also marks the launch of the eighth Global Civil Society Yearbook, a collaboration between Mumbai's Tata Institute of Social Sciences and LSE's CSGG. http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/LSEPublicLecturesAndEvents/events/2009/20090311t1939z001.htm
Henner, Dimmock and Lovell are taking part in Talking Pictures, Viewing Restricted's free public event series that investigates changing ways of picturing the world and the implications for NGOs, policy makers, artists, the media, and 'poor people' themselves.
Other participants in Talking Pictures include artist Renzo Martens, who will present his film Episode III, and photographers Oliver Chanarin and Adam Broomberg, who created The Day Nobody Died while embedded with the British Army in Afghanistan. More information about the public events series can be found at www.lse.ac.uk/Depts/global/viewingrestricted.htm
29 April 2009