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The Anxious Enchantment of Poverty

February 19, 2014

It’s so true. As a photographer and documenter my interest is strong in poverty and I have often wondered why. I guess its the unusual aspect plus the poverty stricken are often vulnerable to be photographed, ie privacy is not a right the poverty stricken can protect well.

Archaeology and Material Culture

The Emoya Shantytown Hotel The Emoya Shantytown Hotel

Westerners have long been fascinated by poverty, simultaneously enchanted by human resolve in the face of hardship and anxious about gross human injustices in the midst of affluence.  In 1896, for instance, traveler H.C. Bunner noted that “I have missed art galleries and palaces and theatres and cathedrals (cathedrals particularly) in various and sundry cities, but I don’t think I ever missed a slum.”  Bunner and many of the observers chronicling the lives of the poor often painted pictures of impoverishment that are patently ridiculous at best, and in many cases the representations of penury are simply reprehensible.

One of the most crass contemporary interpretations of poverty may be the Emoya Shantytown Hotel, a faux South African “informal settlement” in Bloomfontein borrowing the aesthetics of South African townships.  The hotel allows guests to “experience staying in a Shanty within the safe environment…

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