Looking from the outside in - people, place and practice

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Self-examination gone too far

At times, the beauty industry can be very destructive. But I believe that, even though we are 'caught' within this world where we are constantly bombarded with brands and body image messaging, we do have a choice. Of course, this choice is made within an already existing framework, but not everybody who is exposed to the beauty industry becomes a plastic surgery addict or a victim of body dysmorphic disorder.  So how do we explain plastic surgery or diet addicts? Does it all have to do with self-confidence, or is there more to it?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Nazis

I am obsessed with Louis Theroux's documetaries. They are all so interesting and evocative. This one is about neo-Nazis living in America's South. Theroux interviews the former head of the Klu Klux Klan, as well as some ordinary people with some extreme beliefs...

Finding the HADZA

They grow no food, raise no livestock, and live without rules or calendars. They are living a hunter-gatherer existence that is little changed from 10,000 years ago. What do
they know that we've forgotten? By Michael Finkel, Photographs by Martin Schoeller

The Hadza is an ethnic group, living in north-central Tanzania. Interesting to see that these kind of groups still exist. They are similar to the the Khoisan, hunter-gatherer, ethnic group in South Africa.

 For more visit:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I always secretly wanted a girl

From pageant queens to pageant kings, I guess...

Many may not know, but there are many boys who also participate in beauty pageants. The fact that they are boys doesn't shock me, but not only are many of the mothers living vicariously through their child, but wishes that their child was born as a girl. Some of these moms are really crazy.

For Toddlers and Tiaras go to:

Human dolls

Are child beauty pageants a way to train children to be competitive from a young age, or are they teaching young girls that beauty, above all, is what gives you value? Many of these little girls of course love these pageants and take the competition very seriously. Whereas some of the mothers seem to play with these girls as if they are human dolls. Isn't it then just like any other 'sport', say swimming or running track? I think what makes this so destructive is the fact that these girls are taught that one form of beauty is valued higher than another and that if you 'loose' in a pageant, you will loose in life. How will these girls treat girls in the real world, who they consider to be ugly?

Monday, March 28, 2011


When filmmaker, Marc Isaacs, decided to make a documentary about a lift in a London tower block he had no idea how the residents would react and what they would reveal of their lives. He simply set himself up in the lift with his camera and waited for the right moment to ask questions. The result is both humorous and moving.

Once the early suspicions of the residents disappear, the lift is transformed into a place of comedy and reflection. Trapped in a confined space and suspended in time for the few seconds it takes to come and go from the building, a rich variety of characters reveal the things that matter to them. (Courtesy of:

Bolivia's Mennonites

The Bolivian Mennonites live in the same way as more familiar groups, such as the Amish in Pennsylvania, U.S and the Afrikaners in Orania, South Africa. Communities like these usually live apart from the rest of society, since they share different beliefs and core values that prevent them from conforming and settling within society. The Mennonites, much like the Amish and Oranians do all their own labour, plant their own crops and live fairly isolated from the rest of the world's technology.

Violence is an infrequent and often unfamiliar occurrence in communities like these. In June of 2009, a community of Bolivian Mennonites were shaken to the core, when a 100 girls and women (as young as 11 years old) were raped by members of their community. The women and girls were drugged in the middle of the night in their homes and then sexually assaulted. Many of the teenage girls now fear that they'll never get married, since this very conservative community believes that you should get married as a virgin.

Similarly, in 2006 the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Penn. experienced a horrific school hostage situation and shooting, where 10 girls (aged 6-13) were shot, killing 5. Acts of violence are of course much more difficult  for people, who have been so isolated from the rest of the world, to deal with. Are these communities 'wrong' to isolate themselves in this way, setting themselves up only to deal with the everyday and the simplistic? Or are they better off not knowing, what we know?

Photos by Lisa Wiltse

Friday, March 25, 2011

A child's war

Unlike most children, these Somalian boys have guns as toys and a battlefield as a playground. Photographer Ed Ou captures Somalia's child soldiers, as they live their daily lives in combat. 

For more visit:

This video shows how these children end up being soldiers and why many of them want to remain fighting.

A man's world

Every day 7,000 female fetuses are aborted in India.
— U.N.

Male babies are often more desired than female babies. Why this is, I personally don't understand. But of course it all boils down to how sex and gender are valued by each society, culture and individual living in a specific space. Women are most often perceived as the 'weaker sex', this might be true in some cases, where physical strength is measured. But what about emotional toughness and other forms of strength? How far can physical strength really get you? It is also about gendering someone in a specific way. We are all gendered everyday by others and ourselves to act female or male. Prefering a boy over a girl ingrains binary stereotypes of what is to be considered male and what is female and widens the gap between the sexes and genders. This allows no space for gender fluidity, which leads to more discrimination and intolerance. Walter Astrada beautifully captures gender issues in India, in his reportage Undesired, where it is truly a man's world...

"Until the 1980s, when ultrasound machines became more widespread, girls were commonly killed at birth or were neglected of health and nutrition to ensure their death. Baby girls were often left to die in dumpsters, buried in clay pots or poisoned. This horrific measures are still happening daily. Across the country there is a 47 percent excess female child mortality, girls aged 1-to-4 who are dying before their life expectancy because of discrimination."

"The arrival of ultrasound machines, and its subsequent exploitation, ushered in a silent era of organized crime. Now able to identify the sex of a fetus early in pregnancy, parents who learn their child is a girl often abort her. The government has banned abortions based on gender for the last 16 years. Every ultrasound clinic is required to have a poster explaining the law, yet this $250 million business a year flourishes because of deeply entrenched traditions, official apathy and the lucrative business of illegal ultrasounds."(

SALEM, INDIA - Priya, 4 years old, lives in the Life Line Trust Home. She was taken by the police after neighbors denounced her parents for beating her and burning her face. The Indian government has set up a network of "cradle houses" for unwanted baby girls.

For more visit:

A skinny success

Crystal Renn is an American fashion model who started modelling high fashion couture at the age of 14. When she started her career she was told to lose a 1/3 of her body weight, if she wanted to be successful in the highly competitive fashion business. After years of  suffering from anorexia, she decided to reassess her lifestyle. She wrote the book: Hungry: A Young Model's Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves, about her experiences in the fashion industry in relation to her several body type transformations.

She went on to become one of the most well-known plus-size models in the world and has since been known as such. Last November she dropped a lot of weight, she says due to yoga and hiking, and is now a US size 8-10.

She has received a lot of modelling work as a plus-size model, but has never appeared on the cover of Vogue magazine, the most coveted cover for models. She finally got her cover this month, as she can be seen on the cover of Vogue Mexico. This makes me wonder if a magazine like Vogue, which is basically the fashion holy grail, will ever feature a plus-size model on the cover. Did they suddenly find Crystal appropriate for the cover because she lost all that weight? They never wanted her before. Even though the fashion world is trying to incorporate more plus-sized models into fashion shows and magazine fashion spreads, do the fashion world really believe that plus-sized models are fashion friendly? Or are they just doing it because they feel pressured to do so? Will it be forever, skinny=success?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Not so green India

"We are now witnessing the beginning of the second Green Revolution in India. The Punjab in the north west of India was an experiment to test an oil based, chemically dependent, corporately controlled model. The land, the water and its inhabitants are now testament to a failed system. A system driven not by a desire to enhance an already sustainable system but to destroy it and replace it with one orientated around profit and plunder." - Jason Taylor, documetary filmmaker.

I thought this documentary on the 'Green revolution' in India was quite interesting:

Human Horses

Find it frustrating getting stuck in traffic? In India, for some, getting around is not that easy. For those being pulled it might be a breeze, but Indian rickshaw 'pullers', work their bare feet to the bone. They truly are human horses.

For the full reportage check out: