Yesterday Canon Australia released their newest ad campaign under the marketing umbrella of #CanonShine. In this advert, Guy Sebastian roams around L.A photographing homeless people.
The idea of photographing the homeless is certainly not a new one – in fact there’s a photographer who has won a number of major awards over the last few years with the same approach. I remember seeing Lee Jeffries‘ portraits of the homeless some years back when his series was just starting out, and if I remember correctly, he offered them money in exchange for a quick portrait. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that at the time, but as he was financially compensating them for only a few minutes of their time and was simultaneously raising awareness of the sheer number of homeless, I couldn’t see the harm.
However, there is something repugnant about Canon Australia’s new advert following a similar motif. Guy Sebastian – a seemingly wealthy man – is parading around L.A in a Lexus with a bag full of expensive camera equipment approaching residents of the street. Yes, he does seem charismatic and friendly and the subjects shown are evidently willing. However, there is an unshakeable air of condescension and that’s to put it mildly. This is encapsulated by the final image in the video in which he arranges for a woman with many retail shopping bags to walk past the melancholic homeless man. It is so contrived and hopelessly cruel it is to be cringe-worthy. Furthermore, we are neither told nor shown that any financial compensation has been offered to the homeless he photographs and to make matters worse, their images have now been used commercially.
I believe the notion behind this advert might have been a genuine one; show someone who is passionate about raising awareness for the vulnerable and struggling. However, whether it has been poorly executed or the subject of the advert poorly chosen, Guy Sebastian comes across as a wealthy man taking advantage of the desperately pool for ‘art’ as opposed to a passionate humanitarian.