Thinking Images v.5: Picturing a protest and illustrating ‘Africa’

November 12, 2010 · by David Campbell · photography, politics, Thinking Images

Thinking Images – an occasional series on a small selection of the week’s visuals and the thoughts they prompt…

The vast majority of news photographs are illustrative – designed to provide a visual punctuation point for the story they accompany. They can arise from an event the day before, as in Thursday’s Guardian front page image of a person kicking in a window during the student protests in London.

Student protest Thinking Images v.5: Picturing a protest and illustrating ‘Africa’

Photo: Ray Tang/Jonathan Hordle/REX

A Reuters executive once described news as “a disruption of the norm,” and a violent moment in an otherwise peaceful political event fits the bill perfectly. It is for this reason that news fails so often to provide the context of the main issue, something that a number of journalism analysts are trying to address in their “future of context” project. Note also the way such happenings become photo opportunities, with the phalanx of photographers to the right of the protestor lapping up the action.

Thursday’s Guardian ran two images of ‘Africa’ that provided a non-stereotypical account of their subject, showing how in the absence of the most recent news images newspapers draw upon well-known and long-running projects to provide their visual resources. In the Guardian’s double-page Eyewitness spread was Joan Bardeletti’s prize-winning still from his important “Middle Class in Africa” project (although the image of the Mozambican family is bizarrely entitled “it’s a dogs life”). A couple of page’s later was one of Ed Kashi’s great Niger Delta photographs, anchoring the print version of the story on Shell’s PR campaign in the wake of Ken Saro-Wiwa’s execution fifteen years ago (the online version has a portrait of Saro-Wiwa).

Ed Kashi Thinking Images v.5: Picturing a protest and illustrating ‘Africa’

It’s great to see something from ‘Africa’ that is a little different. One wonders, though, how much the photographers were paid for the publication of their images. I’ll guess it wasn’t much.

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