The topics of race, gender and photography intersect in a variety of ways.
Photojournalism: A man's world?
(Washington Post video Nov. 2013)
Notice anything about the women discussed above? Now that brings us to race.
The camera can be used as a tool to promote racism and to terrorize a group of people as in the lynching photographs/postcards in the U.S. in the early part of the 1900s. The camera could also be used as a tool to catalog and control a group of people as with Polaroid's involvement in the creation of travel documents that black South Africans were required to carry as they traveled within their own country.
However, the camera can also be used as a tool to fight racism and teach tolerance as in the use of photography to fight for civil rights in the U.S., for example, by Gordon Parks.
So, the above depends on how the photographer uses the camera, for good or for evil.
But, how about the camera itself? Could the camera itself be inherently racist? Racist by design?
How is that possible? What does that mean?
What we are asking is: Is there bias in the design of the camera and related technologies, like film?
The following cases arose a few years back. One of the cases dealt with the facial detection feature of the CoolPix camera asking Asian people if they had blinked. The other case dealt with the webcam on an HP laptop not tracking the faces of African-Americans.
For more details on these two cases, if you are interested, see the Time.com article Are Face-Detection Cameras Racist? or the PetaPixel post “Racist” Camera Phenomenon Explained — Almost.
Now with this general topic introduced, what follows is some required reading.
To finish up on the serious side of the topic of race in photography, read the following 4 articles.
- More on bias in photographic technology ('White is Right, White as Standard'):
- ‘12 Years a Slave,’ ‘Mother of George,’ and the aesthetic politics of filming black skin
- 'Racism' of early colour photography explored in art exhibition (The Guardian.com)
- Some on white privilege and photography:
If you are interested in more online reading on the topic, here is some recommended reading:
Camera Obscura After All: The Racist Writing With Light by Jonathan Beller.
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See more about me at my web site WilliamHartPhD.com.