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This Week’s Photo – Sudan Famine – Tom Stoddart

This Week’s Photo, taken during the Sudan Famine by Tom Stoddart, saddens and frustrates me at the level of inequality depicted in the image – how can, we humans, be so untouched by the plight of the less fortunate?

It’s also the image I’ve found particularly difficult to write about. I think this is because there aren’t many particular compositional elements to it for example – the strong leading lines or the S-curves or color – all the stuff that’s easy to talk about! Instead, this image is about something much, much deeper.

At the essence of it, this image, like many images I’ve shared previously, is about conflict and contrast. In this case, the contrast and conflict between the haves and have-nots. The contrast and inequality between the fed and the starving. The (presumably) well-off person on the left walking vs the crawling child. The contrast between the healthy and the malnourished. The contrast between the well dressed and the one that is not.

There’s also certain dynamism to this picture. The dynamism of the person walking away and out of the frame (quite literally – if you notice that the edge of the person’s foot is touching the left edge of the frame!). The gesture of the boy looking up towards the person is also very powerful.

The image does not have any particularly strong lines, but the shape of the boy, barely resembling what a human is supposed to look like, is powerful. We know what a child should look like and we know that the particular child in the image is no-where close to our mental image of a healthy child.

The photographer is trying to highlight the inequality and the destructive nature of the famine and I think he succeeds in doing so very well.

Looked in the context of my last post, in which I defined a Compelling image, I find this image very compelling. This image goes beyond the f-stops and shutter speeds and points to something deeper. This image is not simply of a boy and man but about the famine, the inequality, the malnourishment, the poverty.


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