Italian Lensman Apologises Over India Hunger Series After Outrage Critics labelled Alessio Mamo's series unethical, exploitative and perverse

ITALIAN photographer Alessio Mamo’s photo series “Dreaming Food”, a conceptual project looking at hunger in India, has been severely criticised.

The photos were clicked in the villages of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in Aprill 2011. The photos feature plates laden with fake food arranged on the table with the subject(s) standing next to it with their faces covered.

“I brought with me a table and some fake food, and I told people to dream about some food that they would like to find on their table…,” Mamo wrote on his Instagram post.

[Update: Mamo’s Instagram post has now been removed]

The series has also been featured on World Press Photo’s (WPP) Instagram account. Mamo had won the 2nd prize in People, Singles for the 2018 Photo Contest for his portrait of Manal, an Iraqi girl who was a victim of a missile explosion.

The winners of the contest were given the chance to takeover WPP’s Instagram account for a week. Along with Manal’s photo, Mamo also put up his series “Dreaming Food”.

The photos have sparked outrage online with many calling it exploitative and perverse. Both WPP and Mamo have been criticised for peddling “poverty porn”.

These photographs are from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh two of the poorest states of India. From the series “Dreaming Food”, a conceptual project about hunger issue in India. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ My name is Alessio Mamo (@alessio_mamo) an Italian freelance photographer based in Catania, Sicily. In 2008 I began my career in photojournalism focusing on contemporary social, political and economic issues. I extensively cover issues related to refugee displacement and migration starting in Sicily, and extending most recently to the Middle East. I was awarded 2nd prize in the People Singles category of #WPPh2018 and this week I’m taking over World Press Photo’s Instagram account. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Despite economic growth, a majority of the Indian population still lives in extreme poverty and disease. Behind India’s new-found economic strength are 300 million poor people who live on less than $1 per day. Government figures may indicate a reduction in poverty. But the truth is, with increasing global food prices, poverty is spreading everywhere like a swarm of locusts. These pictures are taken in rural areas where conditions are worse than in the cities and where close to 70% of India’s population reside today. Statistics show that 2.1 million children under 5 years old die of malnutrition annually. The idea of this project was born after reading the statistics of how much food is thrown away in the West, especially during Christmas time. I brought with me a table and some fake food, and I told people to dream about some food that they would like to find on their table. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #WPPh2018#asia #dreamingfood #india

A post shared by World Press Photo Foundation (@worldpressphoto) on

“The way you promote photography that makes suffering, brutality, death, and tragedy pornographic is outrageous. People are seeing it more every day, and @worldpressphoto will be remembered for all the disgusting and exploitative photography it’s senselessly promoted. Save your cold canned responses and rethink your oppressive understanding of photography,” a user wrote in a comment.

People have also questioned the legitimacy of the series as a work of journalism and/or conceptual art. WPP reacted to the comments on its post in what appeared to be a templated response which further angered the commentators.

WPP Alessio Mamo

“The photographers are responsible for selecting their work to show and writing their captions. They can present a portfolio of past work or a current project,” WPP said in a statement released on Medium. “We keep our guidelines for Instagram takeovers under constant review to learn from the debates about pictures and projects the photographers share,” it further added.

The statement, however, has left many critics unconvinced.

Alessio Mamo responded to criticism saying, “The only goal of the concept was to let western people think, in a provocative way, about the waste of food. Maybe it did not work at all, maybe I did it in the wrong way, but I worked honestly and respectfully with all the people involved. I only had the intention to let people think about this issue.”

“I’m a human being and I can make mistakes. I want to offer my deepest apologies to anyone who felt offended and hurt by this photos, and to the people I photographed. It was not my intention at all to discredit them. I’m in love with India and with the people. I’m always open to be criticised in my work, but I have never in my life felt hate like the comments directed at me in recent days,” he further added.




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