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The Power of Photography

by Kate Berardo


We photo enthusiasts can easily ramble off some of the benefits of photography—from capturing memories to giving us visual records of our travels. But we seldom think about the negative power of photography—from skewing reality to being invasive and offensive. When taking photos across cultures, it is important to be aware of both the positive and negative powers of photography.


Photography Can…

But It Can Also…

Delight people

Offend people

Capture the essence and character of different cultures.

Capture only the exotic in different cultures.

Help us to see elements of a culture that we might otherwise miss.

Confirm our biases about cultures by capturing elements that fits our stereotypes and assumptions

Be a communication tool between people of different cultures

Be an invasive instrument that cuts short the possibility of connecting with people from other cultures

Create entry points into different cultures—allowing you to experience the culture more richly and deeply

Create an unsurpassable barrier between you and the culture you are experiencing—if inappropriately used

Honor other culture’s values and practices when we portray photos and describe their contents in a respectful, culturally sensitive fashion

Debase other culture’s values or practices if we portray photos in a way that disrespects or looks down on the traditions and customs of other cultures


Kate Berardo, founder of the cultural awareness portal Culturosity, is a Northwestern educated intercultural specialist who helps people from different cultures, backgrounds, and schools of thought understand each other and work effectively together. She is the co-author of Putting Diversity to Work with colleagues George Simons and Simma Lieberman and the Executive Planet Guide to Doing Business with the US.

For more tips on photo-taking across cultures, download the entire Pop Culturosity Guide to Photography. This article may be reprinted with the author’s permission. Please contact us with reprinting requests.

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