Sight of Grace
    Brazil 1980 | Ethiopia 1984 | Mali 1985 | Korem 1984 | Brazil 1983
about us | about Sebastião Salgado | about the book | discussion | links | home



More Information

Main Page

Culture Clash

When I look at this photograph a wave of emotions comes over me.  I feel pity, sadness, hate, hope, wonder, and some things I can't describe.  I've learned a lot from this picture about the battles of being human and I'm so thankful that I had the opportunity to view it.  But sadly, in many situations where this picture could be a huge benefit and teaching tool it wouldn't be shown because the boy in the picture is nude.  Why is our country so afraid of nudity?  Nudity is taboo in this country and I think that to a certain degree some of that needs to be erased.  Now I'm not saying break out the Playboys, but I am saying that a powerful photograph such as this one should not be hidden simply because it shows a naked young boy.  It shows so much more than that.  It shows a starving young boy; a boy who has wanted food more than we ever have.  It shows a proud young man; one who holds his head high and looks the world in the face despite his desperate situation.  This boy has probably suffered more in his life then most of us would care to imagine.  When we look at this photograph we not only ask questions about the boy, but also about our lives and ourselves.  We could build awareness of the troubles in other cultures by looking at a picture like this.  If I would have studied this photograph in high school I think that it would have really humbled me, knocked me off that high horse I was on.

So why aren't pictures such as this one put on the commercials with the good Samaritan holding a small, under-privileged child asking you to send just $0.95 a day?  Because he is nude, and to some that would be offensive.  Some might say it's child pornography.  But my opinion is that those people might claim that a photograph such as this is pornography simply because it shows frontal nudity of a young boy.  But this just isn't so. I bet that some of these people don't think twice when they see a half-naked young man modeling underwear, or a swimsuit model stretched out on the beach in a provocative pose.  And I bet that some don't bat an eyelash when their teenage daughter has a poster in her bedroom of a shirtless teen idol.  So why would this picture from the pages of "An Uncertain Grace" not be pornographic and the photo of the model be more so?  Even though the young boy has on less clothes than the woman in the swimsuit, the message is different, and I think that is the determining factor.   The underwear models are partially clothed, but way more pornographic than the little boy standing in the desert. The U.S. Justice department says that in order for something to be considered pornographic it has to meet the following criteria: it must focus on the genital area, mush show unnatural poses, must depict the person as a sex object or be willing to engage in sex, and it must be in a suggestive setting.  Look at the picture of the boy at the top of the page.  In my opinion he does not fill any of these criteria.  But now look at the pictures of the underwear and swimsuit models.  I think that they fill all of those criteria, the only one that they may lack is the suggestive setting.  Pictures such as these models are seen everyday in magazines, on television, or on billboards, but rarely does the everyday person think of them as pornography.  So I think that if pictures such as these can be viewed everyday by the public then photographs such as this boy should be up for display also.  I believe that if we got images such as this one of starvation and devastation up where they would hit people right in the face we could help them spring into action and do something about these problems.  This photograph has made a real impact on me, and I hope that it can do the same for you.    


These pictures have been taken from the following places:

The small boy is from page 66 of "An Uncertain Grace"

Victoria's Secret.  28 May 2001.  <>.

Toccafondi, David.  Calvin Klein Ads: unofficial archives.  28 May 2001. <>.