On world photography day 2020, SIAS MEDIA SCHOOL and SIAS SCIENCE CLUB in collaboration with IQAC hosted an enlightening International Panel discussion on ‘CAMERA and ETHICS’ in which Ms. Emily Garthwaite, a famous photojournalist was the invited chief guest. The panel was comprised of Ms. Emily Garthwaite, Mr. Muhammed Noushad, Ms. Shahida A, Dr. Shonima Govindan and Ms. Husna Latheef.
In conversation with Emily Garthwaite:
Emily Garthwaite is an award-winning photojournalist, Forbes 30 Under 30 and Leica Ambassador focusing on humanitarian and environmental issues. She has a Masters in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography from the University of Westminster and is the Founder of WomenTranslate. She has walked over 500km through Iraq documenting positive stories of resilience and empowerment and co-directed The 40th Day, a documentary covering Arbaeen, the world’s largest annual pilgrimage through Iraq.
On beginning of her Photography Journey:
I started photography when I was about 15 years old. But I would say I really began that journey properly when I was around 22. And I think for any creative person there will be many exciting up and downs all along their journey. That’s how it started.
On her much acclaimed Photo of Elephant from Varansi:
Well, I visited India a lot now. But during my first visit, my family had such a great time in North East India. My grandmother always wanted to be buried in India and so I took her ashes and carried across India from Mumbai to the North East. And when I was there in Varanasi, I saw an elephant been taken down through the streets for hours. It was pretty clear that the elephant was in huge amount of distress. It was a common practice across for ages. Sadly something that I have seen before but not on this scale. There were fireworks, drum processions and it is good luck to pull on the trunk and tail. The elephant was in so much distress and right at the end when everyone had left and handful of us were sitting on the other side, I took this photograph. It was a very very quiet image of an elephant recovering from hours and hours of trauma. I submitted this image to wildlife photography competition and it became finalist. I believe it went to India as well as toured across the world through exhibitions. It is really important that elephants had to be protected and loved in India.
On her ‘hybrid’ kind of photography which mixed Street photography with Wildlife:
It think we are incredibly binary with photography. We think you can be a wild life photographer or fashion photographer and wedding photographer or documentary photographer. These differentiation in terminology like documentary photography, press journalism, editorial or storytelling – when you start adding these layers of complications, it means you are not really able to explore every single avenue. What I have really loved in my career so far is the ability to cover all these things. So I can be a wildlife photographer or street photographer and do documentary projects or photojournalism. And I would really like to encourage that in any photographer. I started working with fashion photographers, as an assistant. It was important for me to have that focus on fashion and through it, I discovered photo journalism and street photography as well. Im sure anyone who takes photographs will have some ‘drew in’ factor. India has got some of the best street photographers in the world and I have been lucky to meet a handful of them. They are so fantastic.
On her visit to Karbala:
Well, I think it is really important to make clear that everyone is welcomed there (specifically walked by shia muslims). The pilgrimage is encompassed by people and no matter whether you are christian or you dont follow any religion. Essentially it is a walk of peace and I think the more diverse voices and religions be, it would become more better; so I really encourage anyone who is from different faith to experience it certainly at the times of immense divides in India. I have walked it twice and I have been in Karbala and in Naja for Maharam for the past three years. So I had a very intense experience of Barak as you can imagine because – walking with around 25 million people – and I have always seen Iraq as a busy place even though thats not entirely the case (laughs).
On her visit to Iraq and Middle East countries apart from all the prevailing stereotypes:
I think every single country has its own sort of PR machine and we look at the US – how they tells their history and stories. When we see the media reporting from Middle East they tend to pander to certain narrative and ultimately it is about maintaining the perception that the Middle East is in constant conflict. Like the place is just being bombed, deserted and there is a total lack of education. As a consumer of the news and having not been to the Middle East until my mid-20s, I definitely fall into that category who believed it. I was really nervous before I arrived in Iraq in 2017. Then it was sort of going against all of my senses because I had been brought up to believe Iraq as such a dangerous place. (Thats quiet an extreme example for the majority of people wont have a chance to visit.) I felt it is a huge responsibility to talk about Iraq, celebrate the beauty and show it to the world. I would say majority of my works really comes focussing on Iraq.
On people’s reaction (who might be subjected to Islamophobia) about her photographs and exhibitions:
I think there is very important differentiation between Islamophobia and hate crime. And I feel everything sorted gets lumped with Islamophobia.This isn’t a phobia. Treatment of muslims as you see around the world isn’t just Islamophobia. It is targeted genocide (In China as well). So I would like to make it clear that I have read the reports and had seen the language, prejudice that exists in India which has very different levels; certainly hate crimes are involved. When you look at the two seperate bills, the CAB and NRC – I think the way that Islamophobia is allowed to manifest is very much through the media. I think we are really seeing a sort of single state mind for a lot of countries now-a-days.
I can’t actually convince someone. People have very preset ideas. I think people puts their frustration and anger onto other communities. The Middle East is unbelievably diverse. It has got so many religions and faith but the perception about it very reductive. It is always Muslims or Arabs – thats normally the only way other people perceive it. I think deconstructing those perceptions about Muslim communities is really important (same for the Middle East). I wont be able to change people’s mind. But I know someone who sees my work might feel empowered to take up that responsibility for activism. I cannot force my opinion on others but I want people to know that there is another story and that will inspire others to seek out more information and may be dismantle some of the misconceptions about India or Thailand or Australia or wherever it be.
On Indian Perspective of Islamophobia:
I look up onto indian politics and have been following it since what happened last year. I am trying to spread the word as much as possible . And it’s incredibly difficult to gauge what is actually happening because the reporting is so conflicting. And the opinions are also conflicting. People are pretty much against whatever you are sharing and I have felt so blacklisted because I have been called as an apologist or brainwashed or whatever maybe highlighting on what is happening to muslims in india. So as a foreigner, something I would say is that it’s always inappropriate to comment on anything that has been created as a mess. You are indian, you have no right to have an opinion on it. Globally we talk about it and just to make sure that the narrative and the truth of the matter doesn’t get lost. I mean I participated in sharing the video of a mosque being burnt down in delhi. And it took a lot of verifying on the video since people who have witnessed it said it didn’t happen. There is this collective viewpoint, which reflects poorly on certain communities and others. But I shared this video and the abuse I got for it was astonishing in a way that I have never had for critique in my own government. I have lots of worries on what they are doing. And I have studied about Indian and Iraq politics and it was really scary because people couldn’t see the reality of it and how it impacted their belief system. So there is a lot of separation in that, you know, you can be muslim or hindu and still can be impacted by the treatment of other faiths. It doesn’t have to implicate you. But I think there’s a lot of things how the news is reported and it’s very much like us and them on a very clear tactic. BJP have done a lot to instill that.
On encouraging Women to work as Translators:
It actually happens because I had a job in India and we were doing a story about the dalit community and the lack of justice particularly women who suffers sexual violence. So we were interviewing women who were ready to come forward and share their stories. And on one of the days we had to have a translator and it was a male translator. I was astonished that a man was going to be in that room with a small group of women translating the voice of a woman who is a sexual abuse survivor. I then requested, because I simply cannot have a man in this room. And the woman we were interviewing said that it’s okay to have him there. I said it’s not okay. We can’t have a man telling you the story and it’s incredibly difficult for her. It took a very long time for her to come out and it was a very important moment for her. It shouldn’t be a man who is translating that. I have been in a number of situations like that where we have been able to find a woman. But most of the time when you have to find a woman to translate, you have to go through men. Then the men will say that she is probably no good because of lack of experience. But actually they aren’t allowed her to have that experience. So I started to do a bit of research. It was essential that when I am interviewing a woman and it’s incredibly sensitive there must be a women to translate what the victim is saying. Only a woman can understand the feeling with which she is saying. So that’s how I started and partnered up with these two incredibly amazing women from Najaf, Iraq. They run something called kepa and then we just started reaching out to people connecting them and kind of consulting and sharing the work of other women translators just to make sure that it’s recognised that we are capable of doing that job in terms of certain countries are experiencing conflicts. It’s a fantastic job for women to do because she can do it from home and she can do it from online. Lots of these translations don’t require to be in person. This is a fantastic way for a woman to work from home and earn her own income. We have just started in the middle East. I imagine we will be doing that for the most. I don’t think we will be diversifying anytime soon. It’s a very long and complicated process. The way the payment schemes are done, since most of them don’t have bank accounts. There is also a need to have conversations with the men in their family to establish that connection. It’s quite difficult and undertaking. But we are doing it slowly.
On her future assignments:
I will be working with my partner on a project. He is a writer. And so that’s gonna be a pretty long time. It’s gonna be a very very long time project. I realise that lots of stories we want to tell are not just about the misconceptions among people but misconceptions of what’s happening to our planet. I just want to say that I totally agree with the points about being a woman journalist and getting women on those roles to tell stories because a lot of these stories wouldn’t have been told if it weren’t a woman leading it’s charge. So it’s incredibly important because, it’s really difficult especially when the gatekeepers are all often predators. How is a woman supposed to get into a strong career position when people like these are at the gates. These men who, you would likely be blacklisted if you had to call them out. It’s very important that their own unions to speak up and going through the challenges of getting into whichever career. In regards of the future, I decided that I am no longer going to work independently as a woman because I found that very very challenging for obvious reasons so I am gonna be working with my partner or with a small team. I just try to tell stories which won’t get into the mainstream because they just are not of interest. We believe that, if we independently do it we know how important these stories are and how much people enjoy reading them and engaging these topics. So people might not be saying yes to us when we propose it. But we certainly they will look after it. You know, how saying yes to something is tricky when you haven’t seen it.
*In conversation with Mr. Muhammed Noushad (Writer, Translator and Documentary Film Maker)
After the issues of climate change and global warming now one of the most important issue in the world is xenophobia. It means dislike of prejudice against people from other countries. The emergence of the political parties BJP in India as compared to Trump in America and other european fundamentalists. Because it is connected in some aspects. Most of the countries face the refugee crisis like migration very harmfully, Europe and other Western countries. Even in India refugee crisis is still a serious matter. Refugees are coming from different places. In one hand we can say that there is immense damage by War and civil war and terrorism, in other hand it causes the emergence of right wing political movements. This is a very sad situation. The idea of positive realism which people like Emily doing a significant role in it. Because storytelling is one of the way to change the world if you want to change a world we living, we need to change the stories. Iam Also more curious about the abrahamic path which is another venture Emily is part of that project.
second coming of BJP and things like article 370, CAA, NIA, UAPA affect our country negatively, Many people of Kashmir, Muslims in Assam all these peoples are slow genocide. We need to tell the world that this may happen just like happened the jues in Poland, Germany and the entire Europe. when Hitler has a power and his ruling time. We have to stop genocide. Journalism and media has very important role in this area. And also other fictional narratives like film, for example in Bollywood film industry, recently there is several movies that focusing Muslim barriers from history are randomly pick and showed as villains. Whatever it is padmaavat, Tanhaji. This is happening in coincidence with the emergence of right wing politics in India. We need to have a story or story strategic tool that share to the world. In that aspect positive realism that Emily is trying to show immensely beautiful.
*In conversation with Ms. Shahida A*
(Head of the Department, Journalism and Mass Communication, MES Kalladi College, Mannarkkad)
Miss shahida A, head of Journalism Mass Communication department MES college Kalladi also chaired on this international webinar and she delivered her views and idea about women representation in media mainly she depict about the challenges faced by women while came to media and illiteracy among indian woman.
*In conversation with Ms. Shonima Govindan*
(Head of the Department, Department of Biochemistry, SIAS)
There are so many remarkable photographers out there here currently. At a time we can see that all types of shots in our gallery, for modelling, photography will be in front of us, you have the total control over the light and the subject., also the product photography, food photography, etc we can decide when to click there is a chance for modifying your photos over and over. but wildlife photography is entirely different none of the animals will poss for you when inquired for posing. We have zero control over the subject so we have to be patient we have to wait for days to get a perfect movement and click.we should have deep knowledge of animals and good planning to shoot. Wildlife photography makes gives us a wonderful experience. We might not able to have food on time. We have to put our life in many dangerous circumstances, where we are prone to an animal attack. But a Thoughtful click at the perfect movement will give your worth of our patience and strangles a perfect photo detail a story it is frozen memory portrait in a picture.
*In conversation with Ms. Husna Latheef* (Research Scholor)
Husna Latheef a journalism graduate, who was the one among the pannel shared her personal experiences as a media person in Kerala and the difference in other states of India. She said that it is really different in other states to face the society as an Islamic women working in the media feild. She Expressed her views on islamophobia, the representation of women in the media feild and also the way the got support from her family. As a women who work in a media firm, she had an opinion that the attitude towards the women is getting better when compared to other states. And she concluded by saying that in inia 90% of media is under a particular ideology and they only disseminate misrepresentation about women in certain community.