Photographing Hungry People As Props Isn’t Social Commentary

Alessio Mamo

Freelance photographer Alessio Mamo is under fire for photographing hungry people dreaming of food as part of his new project. Mamo recently took over the World Press Photo’s Instagram account and posted a photograph from his series “Dreaming Food”, a conceptual project about hunger issues in India. Or so he would like us to believe.

Mamo has included a monologue with his photograph to highlight how poverty and hunger are interlinked and affecting millions of Indians. It would have indeed been a heart-touching project, had Mamo not used these really cruel techniques for his photo-shoot. As he himself has revealed, Mamo brought with him a table and some fake food and then asked, hungry underprivileged people to stand in front of it and dream about the food they would like to see on that table. On paper, it must have sounded like a concept which would win him an award but in reality, he has ended up mocking these hungry people, showing that his intentions don’t have any heart.

Stop masquerading your cruelty as art

Mamo thinks the best way to highlight food crisis is to use hungry people as props! He placed famished people in front of artificial food and champagne which would have certainly cost him more than it would have to buy these people some food.

It’s like rubbing salt on an open wound, only that it would be a million times more distressing for those with empty stomachs to see a table laden with food, which they cannot eat.


  • Photographer Alessio Mamo’s new project “Dreaming Food” has received backlash on social media. He posted a picture from this project on World Press Photo’s Instagram handle.
  • As per Mamo, he placed fake food in front of hungry people and asked them to think about the food they would like to see on that table.
  • Placing people with empty bellies with a table ornate with fake roast and champagne reduces their plight to a mere photography prop.

How did this not come across as cruel to Mamo? He wants us to believe that to tempt starved people with the idea of a fulfilling meal is a social commentary? For Mamo, hunger and food are props to earn accolades. He is sure that he is doing a social service by spending a chunk of money on photo shoots to “highlight” this socio-economic issue.

For those who have actually spent a night starving know how barbaric this concept is.

We hope that Mamo realises that to highlight hunger and poverty he doesn’t need to torture his subjects. He doesn’t need to put them through inhuman levels of depravity. This is not art or humanitarian work. This is not even photography. It is an opportunistic behaviour to earn fame. And if the intent to put it on social media is to gain fame, then this is even more inexcusable. How low can people stoop for a few Instagram likes?

If you are trying to send a social message on deprivation through pictures, make sure it doesn’t come at the cost of someone’s suffering or shame. Then the message you are trying to send gets shrouded by your own hypocrisy.

Picture Credit: World Press Photo/via Instagram

Also Read : UN Report Studies How Gender Influences Poverty, Education

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.