Exploiting poverty for aesthetic seems to be the new trend for platforms such as Instagram, and it’s entirely problematic.
It’s likely you’ve seen a photo someone posted of themselves posing on a sidewalk of a low-income neighborhood, inside a laundromat, or in front of a hole-in-the-wall Mexi-mart.
However, this trend is not exactly anything new in visual media.
Music videos are notorious for this.
We’ve seen stars singing and dancing to the background of either real or sets made to look like poverty-stricken inner-cities for decades now.
Young, beautiful and rich Hollywood starlets parading around in the homes of people just trying to get by was already bad enough.
But now, the trend has trickled down to wannabe photographers “doing it for the ‘gram.”
For some reason, these people choose to locate the poorest area near them to take photos in their designer outfits because it’s because they think it looks cool.
The problem with this is they get to leave whenever they want to continue on with their comfortable lives without looking back.
The same can’t be said for the people who live there and have no choice.
Photo shoots in laundry mats are especially perplexing.
These people most likely never needed to go to one in their lives and have a perfectly working washer and dryer at home.
It takes a special kind of privilege to use other people’s necessities as a prop.
This trend of using poverty as a backdrop for aesthetic shots could also serve as its own type of gentrification.
Consider Pink Motel in Sun Valley, which has been featured in the Netflix show GLOW.
Motels are supposed to be boarding options for people who can’t afford a hotel room, but because of Pink Motel’s high demand as a shooting location, it has shut its doors to the public.
The problem is not a shortage of motel options for travelers.
The issue lies with the people living in the surrounding neighborhoods of such novelties.
With any kind of gentrification, when a location peaks the interest of affluent clients, it usually ends with forcing existing residents and businesses out to make way for the rich and hip population.
Glamorizing low-income areas is also a form of appropriation. People don’t mind using these locations as a set, yet they would not want to live in that environment and more often than not do nothing to benefit the people that do.
For people who do live in those areas, using it as a background makes sense.
Using your home environment for your photos and other visual media is a form of convenience rather than glamorization.
The next time you want to take aesthetic photos or videos for any platform, consider other locations rather than people’s backyard.
For instance, Cal Poly Pomona has a beautiful campus where nice photos and videos can be taken.
For night shots, downtown Pomona has a lot of locations perfect for shooting, such as the Fox Theater.
And remember, neon lights exist outside of the laundromat. Let people do their laundry in peace.
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