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Remember the ‘Utica Struggles’ Photo Essay? Photographer Spencer Platt Speaks out at Symposium

Utica Struggles
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In 2012 photographer Spencer Platt visited Utica. He wanted to do a photo essay about poverty in America and found in Utica a perfect subject: a sputtering, once flourishing city of industry. What was unusual, was the response of Uticans to Utica Struggles, seeing their city portrayed in that light.

Recently a symposium conducted by Bag News, which studies the business of reporting and specifically images used by the news media, asked photographer Spencer Platt about the reaction his photo essay received in Utica.

From YouTube:

This is a cautionary example of the effect of news photos in the age of social media. Not hours after Getty photographer Spencer Platt’s photo-story about the urban plight of downtown Utica was published, angry residents and officials in the city took to Twitter and Facebook to voice their discontent. If the question of how to visually depict depressed cities was an issue before, social media only raised the bar. Michael Shaw and Spencer Platt discuss the feedback and the intricacies of depicting poverty.

As noted in the video, I was a Utican who had a response to Platt’s photo essay. While I’m not nearly the photographer he is (as noted by my less-than-Pulitzer-worthy iPhone images), I attempted to take some of his subjects and photograph them in a different light and context with my mini-photo essay ‘Utica Struggles – a Fresh Look.

Next: Utica Struggles - a Fresh Look

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