Indian State Rajasthan Bans Photography During Food Distribution to Impoverished Citizens

Indian State Rajasthan Bans Photography During Food Distribution to Impoverished Citizens

Photography has always played an important role in raising awareness of social injustice issues, including poverty, homelessness, and famine. However, media reports from the Indian state of Rajasthan claim that its government has laid out a rule for photographers: no further documenting food distribution to the poor.

The photographic documentation of crises has always been the subject of controversy. For example, though internet comment generally tends to approve of popular stunts uploaded to YouTube like handing out cash to the homeless, a skeptical minority can be put off by "charity selfies." Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot of Rajasthan seems to be taking such a minority position in his state's case, acting in the interests of privacy and respect for those suffering through poverty. With his state's poverty rate of 24.8%, such concern is at least understandable.

Gehlot is quoted as saying: "Photography during food and ration distribution has been banned in the state. This should not be made a medium of publicity."

This ban on photography even includes snapping mobile selfies while distributing food and supplies.

Even putting legal issues aside, the documentation of tragic events raises an ethical question about the photographer’s intent: Is the goal of the camera operator to ultimately help those in need or (perhaps even subconsciously) to exploit them? Could the outcome be both? And if so, is photography worth the potential embarrassment and injustice that can arise during sensitive events?

If you'd like to make a donation to those most in need in Rajasthan, you can do so by clicking here.

Do you feel that it's appropriate to ban photography in times like these? Share your opinions in the comments section below, and please try to remain civil with others.

Lead Photo by Parij Borgohain from Pexels

Scott Mason's picture

Scott Mason is a commercial photographer in Austin specializing in architectural imaging.

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Photography is non essential during crisys, famine, war. Governments should have the right to ban it on a whim. We don't need to see what is happening.

for those wondering /s is usually meant as a statement of sarcasm

Photographic journalism and documentation by anyone is easily essential in a time of crisis. If everything is being done as it is stated then there's nothing to worry about from those photos. Only governments with something to hide would want a ban on images being created.

I can see it both ways. In one way: I feel it's essential to document the happenings around the world even during times when there is no major crises occurring. On the other hand: I feel that "poverty porn" can be a bit gross at times when it starts veering to the point of exploiting the suffering of others for the sake of a shocking headline image.

100% agree. Poverty porn is vile. Integrity, which I feel is in extremely short supply across the media, is the most important factor here. Without integrity poverty porn becomes rampant instead of awareness, action, and education being the motivating factors.

Poverty porn and it's kissing cousin the "Street photography freak show" are very popular among so-called "street photography" amateurs.
I used to live in India in the 70's and I know in Maharashtra state they had a law forbidding photography of beggars.
One can say they are trying to conceal the failures of their government but I really felt that it was an attempt to prevent the monetization of misery.
All too often, street photography is the entitled exploitation of people that may appear different, poor or suffering in some manner so the photographer can parade their "humanity" or "artistic" credibility.

At the same time, I don’t see the need to over-hyping matters like child labor too. It’s simple, the poor in Asia has to find a way to survive. Do we prefer the kids to starve? I often find we cause more mess than help to them.