Salgado and Illy Coffee

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Saganich, Sep 25, 2006.

  1. Saganich

    Saganich Subscriber

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    On Saturday I was wondering through the Time-Warner mall at Columbus circle where I noticed a nice Salgado exhibit of about 20 or so very large prints. On closer examination I realized it all was an advertisment for Illy coffee. I always admired Salgado's work both photographically and politically but this just left me sour.:sad:

    Chris - complaining about the the inhabitants of the world...again.
     
  2. david b

    david b Member

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    Chances are, Salgado is donating the proceeds from the sale of the pictures to some cause, like the hungry and homeless or some animal protection project.
     
  3. StephenS

    StephenS Member

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    Yeah, you gotta feed yourself too. Otherwise no money to do the work you care about and the work you hope will make a difference.
     
  4. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Meh. It's a good coffee brand. If they're evil and exploit their workers, you have a point, otherwise it's just life as usual.
     
  5. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    I saw the prints also on my way to a Jazz@Lincoln Center concert last week (J@LC is now located in the T-W complex).

    They were interesting shots of the coffee growing, harvesting (hand picked) and processing system. Stunning work. Sorry I was in a hurry to make the concert and didn't have more time than just glance at the work.

    Sometimes you've got to eat - and if the sponsor corporation is one with a strong sense of corporate social responsibility (which I presume is the case here) it seems like a win-win-win-win for growers, workers, corporate sponsor and artist.

    EDIT: FWIW, back in the 1970's HCB himself did a film documentary for New Jersey Public TV promoting NJ as a tourist destination. Check out his bibliography some time.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2006
  6. Markok765

    Markok765 Member

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    I like illy espresso
     
  7. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I prefer "Pellini - il buon Caffee". When in Italy I use that advertisment to choose between bars for a quick cup of espresso. :smile:
     
  8. Saganich

    Saganich Subscriber

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    Yea, everyone makes the doe-rae-mi. The images just didn't seem to work as PR. It would have been better if the Illy people refrained from adding their idiotic captions. I went to the Illy web and there are some real PR shots, happy, smiling toothless, bean pickers. I didn't notice any happy, toothless, VP's squating in the mud. That would be a fun reality show. Have the executives and the bean pickers and sorters swap places for a month. Thats a show I would watch. Really.

    ...kavetching from NYC...again
     
  9. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Didn't he start out as an economist for coffee growers? Correct me if I'm wrong, but he picked up a camera to help illustrate reports he compiled for the coffee companies. (or unions) Right??

    Perhaps some of those images are early work?
     
  10. StephenS

    StephenS Member

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    As far as I know, you are correct Mrs. Revy. But I don't know if this is old work as I've not seen it. My guess is new.

    And Mr. Chris; why can't a smiling, toothless, bean picker be happy? There's a lot that sucks about being poor and living in some 3rd or 2nd world, but there are plenty of miserable, desperate people squating over fine porcelain toilets. Happy is a relative term.
     
  11. butterflydream

    butterflydream Member

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    Yes. I also read he started photography with his wife's camera when he was assigned by coffee growers as an economist.
     
  12. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    More to the point - why do we immediately assume that pictures of people engaging in physical labor mean that someone must be exploiting them?

    The shots I saw can be viewed as celebrating the nobility of work as opposed to the misery of unemployment!
     
  13. butterflydream

    butterflydream Member

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    Agree.
    And even if somebody exploits workers, the nobility of work doesn't change.
     
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  15. Troy

    Troy Subscriber

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    And if anyone's exploiting them, it's the coffee drinker and not just the corporate executives.
     
  16. Saganich

    Saganich Subscriber

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    Nobility of work, happiness is relative? Sound like a bunch of confused communists. My perspective is simply that all publicity, advertising, and glamour is our cultural sickness. And we export our sickness to every corner of the world and leave no peoples uncontaminated. Publicity's job is to convince us otherwise mostly through images. We all know the world's actual condition is very stark compared to how it is generally presented. There is little choice for us in our interpretation of the world because to admit folks like the bean pickers are being exploited is to admit we are also being exploited. The same forces that are narrowly defining our needs and interests through the false standard of what is and isn't desirable, are doing the same for the bean pickers although through extensive depravation. The outcome is the same, the narrow definition of needs and interests, which is evident from most of the comments. I find it sad that no one seemingly sees the connections between publicity (PR, advertising, glamour) and the deleterious effect it has on culture, despite what appears within the frame.

    CS - sick of the world but happy to be in it.
     
  17. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    Hmmmm....sounds as if someone needs more fiber in his diet and perhaps looser underwear...
    :D
     
  18. StephenS

    StephenS Member

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    I agree with everything you say Chris. But on the other hand I don't know if I care or not. The genie is out of the bottle and things will continue on a certain path. You can fight gloabalism if you desire but I doubt it will matter much in the end.

    I'm sure the work I do is exploitive as well, but I can't get too excited about Salgado making a few bucks off well concieved bean picker images. Its all crap in the end anyway, no?
     
  19. mark

    mark Member

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    Only if you eat the image, Stephen. Then it would be crap in the end.

    I read their site thoroughly, and it appears that they avoid the middle man and buy from the growers at a "sustainable" price. I am sure they have a few skeletons in their closet but everyone does. I just do not see the exploitation. Could be wrong though.
     
  20. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    FWIW, here's Illy's statement about the exhibit, and a link to the on-line gallery of photographs;

    In Principio, a dramatic photographic journey through the world's coffee-producing countries, was born out of a collaboration between the renowned humanitarian photo journalist Sebastião Salgado and illy, based on their shared interest in improving the economic conditions of the men and women who grow coffee. This photographic collection is a social documentary and a celebration of the customary and ritual gestures, plantations, history and culture of coffee in countries like Brazil, Ethiopia, India and Guatemala, where illy's beans are sourced. "In Principio" is a tale of mankind stories, villages, rituals, landscapes and harmony that will truly touch visitors at illy's "BEAUTY HAS A TASTE" exhibit from September 12 through October 10, 2006.

    http://www.beautyhasataste.com/principio/
     
  21. Earl Dunbar

    Earl Dunbar Member

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    bdial's post seems to point out that coming to an event/exhibition by depending only on a POV, without looking further or deeper can sometimes mislead or only be an exercise in self-afirmation, without information.

    I am not trying to defend or validate Illy's statement as posted on their site, I know nothing about Illy except that they are a "leader" in the coffee/espresso market. But as a teacher of mine once said (paraphrasing), "You have no right to read between the lines until you can accurately read the lines.
     
  22. Saganich

    Saganich Subscriber

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    Come on, does anyone care to discuss ethics or philosophy of using images of the poorest people in the world to promote a 80 billion a year industry? Perhaps we should rename this forum, Ethics and Philosophy through the eyes of Harvard Buisness School Graduates.
     
  23. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    ok...

    I don't know this particular work of Salgados, so bear with me. I mentioned in a previous post that he worked for coffee growers early in his career. I'm not sure who owns this work, and it may very well belong to the coffee growers, and Salgado has less control over its use than most of his other work. That said, I find it troubling that a coffee company wants to use "happy proletariat" images to promote their coffee, and as a regular coffee drinker it's a reminder of just how much my life is, in fact, more comfortable becuase others must do back breaking work.

    I don't want to dwell on the coffee images, though, because I don't know them. I admire Salgado's work, and his committment. I think he is a brilliant photographer, and shows the workers, the displaced, and the poor with enormous dignity and symapathy.

    Unfortunately, he can't edit his images more tightly, and publishes huge, outrageously, expensive books, and waters down his own message. I find this a little frustrating. And honestly, for a communist, he's shown himself to be quite the entrepreneur.

    Has Salgado exploited his subjects? Has the coffee company? Would we have a better understanding of the bean pickers without his work? How do the bean pickers feel about it all? Anyone ask them? I'm starting to go around in circles in my mind here, and I don't have the answers. I'm just glad the work is there despite the quandary over it's use.
     
  24. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    I'm having a real hard time understanding your position. People have been drinking coffee for hundreds of years. For years, importers cared little for the conditions under which the coffee was grown, harvested and processed for shipment to consumers.

    More recently, Illy apparently, and Starbucks for certain, have taken a strong stand as marketers of coffee products to support sustainable agriculture and fair market practices. They are doing something positive in their industry to ensure that workers share in the profits of the industry.

    I think you need to get off the "holier than thou" podium now.

    And, no, I don't work for either of these firms, or in anything related to the coffee industry. In fact, I only occassionally drink coffee. Oh, and no, I do not have a Harvard MBA (nor any MBA) - but if I did, what would be wrong with that?
     
  25. ongarine

    ongarine Member

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    Illy has taken a strong stand as marketers of coffee products to support sustainable agriculture and fair market practices. They are doing something positive in their industry to ensure that workers share in the profits of the industry.
    That's all
    Salgado, in his long series of world workers, made the same for coffee workers as imporant and right paied part of Illy coffee line of production.
    Nothing more, nothing less.
    Do not drink too much espresso, you could be roo nervous :smile:
     
  26. StephenS

    StephenS Member

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    Before you talk about Salgado and coffee there's lots more to be said about him first. His "straight" documentary work is much criticized to begin with. Not so much now, as the major body of his work is well behind him, but certainly back in the day.

    Suzanne, most of what you use and consume is a product of the back breaking work of others. I won't defend a company I know nothing about (and is that website a mess or what?) but at least they're making an effort to show people who do the work. It may be a big piss take and Salgado is certainly going to get them attention, but I don't see many clothing companies bringing cameras into sweat shops.