While stories of people drowning at sea as they flee to Europe has been a staple of news reporting this summer, it is this heartbreaking picture that has shocked the country into action. Charities have seen donations soar, petitions have been signed and marches planned since it was published – while, in the face of mounting pressure, David Cameron has finally agreed to taking more Syrian refugees. But this is not the first time a photograph has changed the course of world events.
Photo editors and experts discuss their decision to publish an image that has shocked the world by Olivier Laurent in Time
“The reason we’re talking about this photograph is not because it’s been taken or not because it’s been circulated, but it’s because it’s been published by mainstream media,” says Hugh Pinney, vice president at Getty Images, a distributor of news images. “And the reason we’re talking about it after it’s been published is because it breaks a social taboo that has been in place in the press for decades: a picture of a dead child is one of the golden rules of what you never published.”
The last time a photograph of a dead child was widely published was in July of 2014 when New York Times photographer Tyler Hicks captured the mangled bodies of four Palestinian youths killed in an Israeli airstrike on a beach in Gaza. What is unique about this case, however, is that many news outlets’ decisions to publish the images followed a public outcry on social media. “We got to this point because individuals have had the balls to publish the pictures themselves on social media,” says Pinney. “I think that gave the mainstream media the courage and the conviction to publish this picture.” READ MORE HERE
Make a donation
Make a financial donation to a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that is doing related humanitarian work overseas. These could include:
● Save the Children: distributing essential items such as nappies, hygiene kits and food
● Red Cross Europe: providing emergency health services at central train stations
This week we have seen that photography is a vital tool in changing peoples’ awareness and attitudes. Still images hold our attention in the way that video does not. The crisis brought about by Europe’s failure to do the humane thing, let me rephrase that, our governments’ failures to do the right and humane thing has not been resolved by a picture, but ordinary people have been changed and have spoken out and now the governments of Europe are paying attention. A sage man, Bruce Elder, commented “There is a dark ugliness in the soul of our politicians but, hopefully, there is a certain goodness and decency in the average citizens which will triumph over political cynicism. ”
This article on disphotic by Lewis Bushcarries this idea that a photograph cannot change the world but that people can:
The power of images to change the world is often claimed, less often proven. Great achievements have been piled around the totem of photography, from the early pangs of environmental awareness to the final course and conclusions of armed conflicts. And yet photographs are just bits of paper, or today more likely abstract lines of code. These things can’t change the world, but they can change people, and people can change the world.
Photographs are not, as we once believed, a sort of window on the world. But in however an incomplete and fragmented a way they do expose us to the idea of other places, people and things. This is not about some false equivalence between seeing and experiencing. This is not to say that seeing a photograph of a drowned child on a beach is the same as standing on that beach over that small body. But it is about knowing that somewhere a child drowned, and that his death is the consequence of other things which might be more within our power to change. Photographs present the idea that things are happening, or exist, or are possible.
You may well feel that there is little you can do as an individual in the face of the overwhelming awfulness that is present on the fringes of Europe but that is not true. This article in The Independent might contain something you could do even if it is only clicking your mouse to tell our politicians how you think.