Billy Crawford apologizes for Ethiopia tourism photos: ‘We meant no harm’
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Coleen and Billy . Shot on location in the Semien Mountains of Ethiopia. Stay tuned for more. . Styling: @adrianneconcept Make-up: @pongniu Hair: @renzpangilinan Grooming: @aimeegrey . Special thanks to @labellefete @ethiopianairlines.manila and @theweddinglibraryph . . #officialphotos #BiCol #metrophotobride #phottixph
Billy Crawford has released a statement explaining his and Coleen Garcia’s pictures taken recently in Ethiopia, after criticisms about the photos’ supposed cultural insensitivity surfaced.
The stunning set of photos was apparently marred by a few shots that included locals in the backdrop, which was slammed by netizens and critics as being insensitive to the Ethiopian people; critics noted that the locals appeared as props rather than subjects of the pictures.
Crawford’s statement was posted on the Twitter page of ABS-CBN journalist MJ Felipe: “We do apologize for how it might have translated and we’re sorry again to those we have offended.”
“Yeah it’s unfortunate how it was taken out of context. It’s far from what we intended,” said Crawford.
He explained that Ethiopian Airlines sponsored their trip for “tourism and [to] capture their natural environment because we were told that tourism helps their economy.”
He clarified that their actual prenup photos are yet to be released and were shot in the Philippines.
He also described their relationship with the locals, stating that there was a local tour guide who accompanied them: “He took us around and made suggestions for the shoot, such as including the priest of Lalibela in our photos because they wanted people to see.”
“The locals were so kind, warm and welcoming and they love meeting tourists. They even gave us some items of clothing to add to our shoot.”
He said their picture with local children surrounding them, which raised eyebrows among netizens, was taken as there were kids during the shoot who were being asked to move aside but wanted to join the shoot nevertheless.
“They really wanted to be a part of the photo so they kept coming into the frame hanggang sa sinama na nina Oly [Ruiz of Metrophoto] (until they were included by the photographers),” he said. “We even showed the photos to them after. We never forced anyone nor wanted to disrespect any race or culture.”
He explained that what went on behind the scenes was different from the final output posted online. “People in the Philippines felt disrespected and offended, but there was a completely different feeling… Every time we look at the photos, we remember how we got to interact with the locals while we were there, and it’s something truly memorable for all of us.”
Despite the children’s serious expression in the picture, he said, “The children weren’t sad and oppressed, they were so friendly and curious.”
“It’s sad that the tendency is to jump to conclusions, but we understand din kasi nga (also because) they were not there to witness everything,” Crawford explained.
“Being public figures, dito kami nagkulang (this is where we had our shortcomings) and we admit we could have done better,” he admitted.
He added that he had experienced racism himself while living the U.S. as an Asian and concluded, “Trust me, we meant no harm.”
When the photographers were reached for comment, Ruiz stated, “The whole team will just refer to Billy’s statement on the matter.”
‘Better ways’ on promoting a country
Netizens were captivated by the beauty and styling of the shots, as they were also enraged with how the Ethiopians were placed in some of the photos.
Though the team intended to show cultural appreciation, what translated instead was that the locals were part of an “aesthetic” to the shoot.
TV host and former beauty queen Maggie Wilson spoke up on the issue in her Instagram Story: “I think we should be a little bit more sensitive with how we ‘promote’ and ‘celebrate’ a culture.”
She cited her own experience in Africa: “I was just in the region late last year and there are far more better ways to show just how beautiful a country and its people are.”
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This little Maasai boy was so fascinated with my camera. If I tried to take a picture of another child he’d follow my lens and stand right in front it! When I showed him the picture I took of him he smiled and giggled. Their innocence and naivety is so refreshing to see. 💛 #Kenya #Portraits
Her photos show her interacting with women in Kenya, particularly those of the Maasai tribe, while her captions describe their lives and their realities, including issues on education.
She also featured individual portraits of tribe members and children. “I feel extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to take this woman’s photograph!” she says in a photo of a Maasai woman in her traditional attire. JB
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