Photojournalism and change: voices of humility


How should we think about the contribution photojournalism might make to the task of social change? Reflecting on the Kony2012 phenomenon I concluded with observations about the difficulty of specifying how political change comes about and our potential contribution to it. Thinking more about this, I recalled videos in which two of the best photographers … Continued

Kony2012, symbolic action and the potential for change


A week on from the “Kony 2012” video eruption, I want to take a step back and ask: what does this tells us about the media economy, what does it suggest about the state of activism, and how should we think about change in the face of global problems? I’m not going to add much … Continued

The myth of compassion fatigue


Before we can construct a meaningful account that traces possible links between visual representation, knowledge and action, we need to dispense with some conventional wisdoms that purport to explain how photographs work. One of the largest obstacles to be removed is the ‘compassion fatigue’ thesis…

Responding to crises: the problem of ‘donor fatigue’


The second anniversary of the Haiti earthquake has seen some excellent follow-up reporting on what the international aid effort has achieved (see The Global Post series, with photos by Ron Haviv, as well as this morning’s Guardian report and picture gallery amongst others). This focus on where the aid money has gone highlights one of the major … Continued

Photographic anxiety: should we worry about image abundance?


Should we be worried about image abundance in the contemporary world? In recent weeks I have heard a number of affirmative answers to this question. At both the University of Sunderland’s excellent “Versatile Image: Photography in the Age of Web 2.0” conference and the Les Rencontres d’Arles symposium on “Photography, the Internet and Social Networks,” … Continued

The problem with regarding the photography of suffering as ‘pornography’


‘Development pornography’. ‘Poverty porn’. ‘Disaster porn’. ‘Ruin porn’. ‘War porn’. ‘Famine porn’. ‘Stereotype porn’. When it comes to the representation of atrocity and suffering, the charge of pornography abounds (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). What does it mean to use this term so frequently in relation to so many different situations? … Continued