Changing perceptions through ownership of image

– Photo by Eva Sajovic in The Roles We Play

In this article, Amanda Button writes about the importance of being in control of one’s own image.

I was asked to take part in a project called The Roles We Play. This project gives people a chance to see another side to me and it brings poverty to the public eye in a new way and it brings it to the forefront of people’s minds. I was asked if I would like to have some photos taken as part of the project. During the photo shoots we had the opportunity to decide where, when and how our photos would be taken. We also had the choice of picking the final photographs.

Having ownership over my own image was empowering. It gave me a sense of purpose and control. I liked the process quite a lot because it made me feel like I was in control of how I wanted myself to be portrayed. Doing the pictures in the way that I wanted to do them meant that I can say ‘this is me’. No one was tampering with my image. This is very rare in life especially when you are struggling.

For me, you need somebody that takes the time to listen to what you have to say and takes on board your views and your feelings. This helps so that you are able to feel confident and able to ask any questions without fear of being judged or being told ‘No! We’re going to do the photos this way’. This means that the person with the camera is not just there for their own objective to portray the image that they want but to give an image of the true person.

I wanted to be photographed with a horse. The choice of location was also very important for me; I wanted it to portray my love of being close to nature. It held very positive memories for me. Having the photo of me taken on a horse resonated with a happier time when I had just left school and started working.

When I look at these pictures of me, what I see is somebody that’s happy and proud of themselves. I feel proud of these photos. But, the photos alone cannot explain everything about me, that’s why the words are just as important. I was asked to write a short text to go with my photos. I was also given ownership of what I wanted to say.

I believe that the media and journalists can blow things out of proportion. They should take the time to get to know the people properly. They can often portray an image of them that isn’t true. The media don’t have the right to criticise someone who isn’t as well off or as well educated as them. They may not have had the same struggles in life. The media and journalists should be ashamed of themselves when they create false and negative pictures or images of the lives of people in poverty. People in poverty don’t ask to be there, they do the best with what they’ve got. People in poverty are often treated without dignity and respect, which to me is disgraceful. They deserve the rights to be treated equally with dignity and respect. After all, they are human beings just the same as anybody else.

– Amanda, Philosopher