“National geographic” compared to the past: “ten years, our story is racist.”
If national geographic’s April issue is devoted entirely to race, the magazine decided it would be best to examine its history closely.
Editor-in-chief Susan goldberg invited John Edwin mason, a professor of African history and photography at the university of Virginia, to enter the magazine’s nearly 130 years of archives and return.
In the magazine’s report, mason found a long tradition of racism: in its text, the subject of choice and its famous photographic work.
“In the 1970 s, almost all of the national geographic committee ignored the colored people live in the United States, rarely acknowledge is beyond the scope of laborer or family workers,” goldberg editor wrote in this problem, in which she discussed mason found. “At the same time, it portrays the natives as outsiders, famous and often clothed, happy hunters, noble savages – platitudes.”
Unlike “life” magazine, “national geographic magazine did not push the reader to transcend entrenched stereotypes in the white culture in the United States,” goldberg said, she pointed out that she was the first woman at the helm of the magazine and the first jews – “was once faced discrimination here. ”
To assess the magazine’s historical coverage, mason studied some of the old problems and read critical critical studies. He was also obsessed with the photographer’s contact list, which allowed him to see not only the print but also the decision made by the photographer and the editor.
“Photography, like the article, doesn’t just emphasize differences, it changes… Very strange, very strange, and put the difference in a hierarchy, “mason tells NPR. “The level is very clear: the west, especially the english-speaking world, is at the top, while the black and brown are somewhere.”
Most of the history of “national geographic” portrays the western world as dynamic, progressive, and very rational. At the same time, mason says, “the black and brown world is primitive, backward, and generally unchanged.”
One metaphor he has noticed over and over again is that the photos show that the locals are apparently fascinated by western technology.
“It’s not just cameras, jeeps and airplanes,” he said. “It’s the color of people who see this technology in entertainment or confusion.” This means that western readers will be amused by the fascination with everyday goods.
So how does the magazine choose its theme? Mr Mason explains that “national geographic” has a clear “no unpleasant editorial policy”, so readers rarely see war, famine or civil conflict.
He points out that an article in South Africa in the early 1960s barely mentioned the Sharpeville massacre, of which 69 South African blacks were killed by police.
According to a 1962 question, gold miners in South Africa were “attracted by the thunderous drum” during the “intense tribal dance”.
Kipps/national geographic idea.
“There’s no black South African voice,” mason told goldberg. “Absence is as important as the content there, the only Negro is doing exotic dances… Servants or workers, in fact, consider editors, writers and photographers who must consciously not see things that are really strange.
Then, in the magazine, she painted a picture of a woman in color: nude.
“In the ’50s and’ 60s, teenage boys could always rely on national geographic to show them topless women, as long as women had brown or black skin,” says mason. “I think the editors understand that this is a selling point for male readers, and that some of the naked young women are shot in a way that is almost similar to that of glamour.”
Mason says that the magazine over the past decades have been secretly with its history, but the project of the difference is that gold’s want to explicitly liquidation – “national geographic conspiracy of shape should not be in don’t know my understanding of racial and ethnic level. ”
Although slave labor was used to build houses in the 1956 article, the author believes that they “represent the history of the country that every American is proud to remember.”
Robert f. Sisson and Donald McBain/national geographic.
For those of us who spend a lot of time reading magazines and dreaming of distant lands, mason wants to make it clear that looking at foreigners and places is not a bad thing.
“We’re all curious, and we all want to see that I’m not criticizing the idea of the world, but sending other messages — not just differences, but inferiority and superiority.”
So where does the fabled publication start?
Mason suggests that a good move is to invite multiple contributors to the April issue to be part of the magazine’s regular editors and photographers.
“Still a westerner often tells us about Africa or Asia or Latin America,” he said. “Amazing photographers from all over the world has a unique vision – is not only a state of their own, and if it, who can to shoot for an unique perspective of Cincinnati, Ohio.”
He points out that magazine images are often fascinating, even if they are stereotyped or skewed. Mason says some African photographers have told him that magazines like “national geographic” and “life” first turn them into photography.
“They know there is a problem with the way they and their people represent,” he said. “But photography is often very good, it’s really attractive, and it has this power, and these young men and women say, I want to do that, I want to take pictures like this.”