“The curtain of our innocence is ripped away by photographs”

22 11 2010

Photographs have an omniscient power that we are somewhat oblivious to but experience everyday. Photos can change moods, opinions, knowledge, and history. That is a large spectrum, moods to history, but an accurate one.
When word of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners came out in 2004, it attracted little, if any publicity. But when the images were released, the public’s voice rose, the president addressed the issue, newscasters all across the nation began to report. “The power of pictures is unlike any other,” says George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC’s ‘This Week’, “The prisoner scandal was detailed to top military leadership in lengthy reports weeks ago, but it attracted little attention until the photos were released. Until we saw the picture, it didn’t burn in.” The verb “burn” is a very accurate one for what photographs do. They leave scars on our minds.
Whether a photograph changes history is up for the future historians to decide.”It’s rare you can say an individual picture turned a corner in history. It takes a while for that drip, drip, drip effect to build up over time,” says Ken Kobre, professor of photojournalism at San Francisco State University, “But there comes a point where you can look back and say, ‘Here, this is where we changed.’ We don’t have enough distance yet on these photos–yet–to tell.” Kobre said this is 2004.. I wonder if now is enough distance.
The reason why photographs are so powerful in comparison to words is because, according to Jerry Della Femina, a veteran image expert and ad executive, “When people first see a photo, they unconsciously–but instantaneously–project themselves into the picture”. sociologist Barry Glassner says “when we see one person being brutalized, up close, it’s instinctive to relate and think: That could happen to me–or my child.”
It is interesting to learn all of this and then link it back to what I have been studying about photophilanthropy. Photophilanthropy uses this psychological power of photographs to help nonprofits. Very smart…

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One response

23 11 2010
Mister Fischer

Your post made me think of how few pictures are in most history text books. Think about how different history (the school subject) would be if you spend much more time on images. Think about how little training we get in how to “read” images (in comparison to the training we get about reading text).

You’ve given me lots to think about; we should discuss it the next time we do VTS in class.

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