The other day I was browsing the Internet--reading blogs, scanning news article, clicking links...
Have you ever clicked on a link and literally had the wind knocked out of you with what displays on the screen?
Now, I did not click on anything obscene. There were no suggestive pictures. There were no advertisements for products I do not want or need. There was no inappropriate language.
There was just a photo of a child. A photo of a child in Cambodia. A photo of a child in Cambodia who I know. A photo of a child in Cambodia who I know that was being used as an advertisement for a short-term mission trip by an organization.
It made me feel sick inside.
And, what I am about to write will likely be unpopular. I don't care. What I am about to write will likely be a perspective you are not used to hearing. I don't care. What I am about to write I am quite passionate about and may offend you. Again, I don't care.
(steps onto soapbox)
What makes people think it is acceptable to travel to another country, developing or not, and take photos of children (or adults, for that matter) whom they have never met and know nothing about and then post them all over the Internet and use them for advertising? I ask this question, and trust me, I have had to go before the Lord and repent for my ignorance and wrongdoing in falling victim to this very thing in the past. But, my perspective has been shifted.
I would never dream of going to a public park in America (or any other developed nation) and taking photos of a stranger's children who are playing there, and I would guess that most people would agree with me on that. I estimate that it would not take long for a parent to approach me with my giant camera hanging around my neck and ask, probably not so nicely, "Uh...why are you taking a picture of my child going down the slide?" To which I would naturally respond, "Oh, I just think she is really cute with her blond pigtails and wanted to take a picture and post it on my facebook page." I wager that the police would arrive within about 5 minutes, and that parent would drag their confused, pig-tailed daughter to their minivan while giving me a death stare. Why? Because I would be creepy. It is unacceptable. It is weird. People don't do that...unless it is in a developed country?
When I saw the photo of this child being used as an advertisement for mission trips (none of which were actually going to Cambodia), I was livid. I was angry because this child did not know that this photo would be used this way nor did the child's family. I have met this child's family. I have spent time with this child. I know where this child's family lives and what they do for work. I know where this child goes to school and some of the things this child has experienced. And, it upsets me that someone would use this photo to exploit this child by essentially saying, "Look at this poor, pathetic child in Cambodia who needs you to come to the rescue."
Ok, I will stop now, but I do hope that you will think twice when you see the millions of photos used as advertisement for good-intentioned, well-meaning organizations. I hope that you will stand with me in encouraging them to promote dignity in the images they produce and present because really no one should ever have the wind knocked out of them when they stumble across a website with a photo of their friend, their child, or themselves as the poster child of poverty or exploitation or heathenism.