Tourism at Its Worst : a guest blog post by Jenny Stoecker

[  so pumped to have a dear friend guest blogging some wonderful thoughts about poverty and travel photography today. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. This week we’re doing a Guest Blog Loop with the Bloggish community. To follow the loop you can head on over to Cupcakes and sunshine to read a guest post from me (Allison)! ]

Tourism at its worst I’m a Grade A tourist—big sunglasses, camera around my neck, travelling in a gaggle of fanny pack clad humans. I have no shame in stopping at every roadside attraction…why yes, I have seen the world’s largest prairie dog and a two headed cow. This level of dedication to the tourist craft was ingrained in me at a young age. Born in California, I was a regular at the San Diego Wild Animal Park—sticking my head out the tram window to get a closer gander at the giraffes. I’d stand up on my parent’s lap, blocking their view with my giant safari hat, and making them hold my newly acquired gorilla shaped water bottle. For me, it’s always been go big or go home. But, when I started traveling around the world for my job with VisionTrust International, I realized some people really should just go home. There’s a big difference between tourism and poverty tourism, but many don’t recognize it. Vans pull up with curious onlookers who stick their cameras out the window to snap some photos of impoverished communities. Although this might be well intentioned, here are just a couple of the many problems this creates: •    These photos are taken of people without their consent and without their input. A photo like this has the ability to strip those in poverty of their dignity and their privacy. •    These photos only offer the tiniest sliver of life as seen by an outsider—often perpetuating harmful stereotypes or misconceptions about poverty. You might be saying, “Okay calm down now, it’s just a picture.” But ask yourself this: How would you feel if someone drove by and took your photo, only to share it as an overarching example of some difficulty you’re going through? Those in poverty frequently define their situation in terms of psychological and emotional effects rather than material. But, the thing I love about photography is that, when used correctly, it can give people confidence and a voice they never had before. So the next time you point a camera on your travels, ask yourself, will this photo bring dignity and show life in it’s truest form?

{Jenny makes her home in her favorite state of Colorado. She loves Jesus, pancakes, traveling, photography, sarcasm, making lists and people. She’s passionate about the work she does, serving people in poverty with VisionTrust International. You can follow her on  Instagram and Twitter @JennyStoecker. Don’t forget to check out her blog }GU004_1213_025


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