photography politics Thinking Images

Thinking Images v.1: Chile, Africa and British students

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

You would have to a cold-hearted person not to have been moved in some way at some time by the rescue of the Chilean miners. But there are always other dimensions to such stories. During the week Jay Rosen tweeted: “A big story and a great story, but does 1300 journalists covering the Chilean miners have anything to do with reality?” Later he added: “Wait: you’ve got 1300 reporters at the miners rescue AND you’re asking, “Who’s gonna pay for the Baghdad bureau, people…” You’re sure now?” Yes, when ‘the media’ gets mobilised it can cover international stories exhaustively. So when they say they can’t afford to do other stories, it’s a matter of choice rather than economics. (Photo: Chilean Mining Minister Laurence Golborne (center) speaks during a press conference at the San Jose mine near the city of Copiapo on October 12, 2010. Rodrigo Arangua/AFP/Getty Images).

Visuals include graphics, and this thoughtful map from Kai Krause has been doing the rounds, circulated by those who want a more complex view of ‘Africa’. It certainly makes a good point, and yet…in comparing a continent with countries, doesn’t it run the risk of perpetuating the homogenization of Africa’s 61 political territories into one entity?

The UK Con-Dem government’s announcement of an increase in tuition fees for university students saw many media outlets turn to the tried and true trope of graduating students in their gowns, as in this Christopher Furlong/Getty Images photo used by The Guardian. The failure of the media to find a way of visualizing higher education beyond these stereotypes is part of a larger representational problem for the university sector. In the absence of contemporary portrayals of mass education in an under-resourced environment, these images reproduce The Brideshead Revisited (or Educating Rita) view of university life, where staff are ‘dons’ who seem to occupy large offices, drink sherry in the afternoon and teach in leisurely one-on-one tutorials. An interesting documentary project awaits the photographer who wants to spend life on campus to see its increasing pressures.

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