And now for more of the same…

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Posted 20 Dec 2010 in Conventional imagery

Ever wondered if the stereotypes of famine are a thing of the past? Ever thought that surely now, in 2010, no one takes images of fly blown children anymore? Then think about this image and its caption, from’s Big Picture¬†review of the year’s photographs.

UPDATE 20/12/10:

Shortly after posting this, Charlie Beckett alerted me to this video example from Save the Children. It was published in July this year:


  1. As someone who speaks often to the fact that I think there are fewer and fewer of these images around, I feel the need to leave a comment.

    Of course there are still a few. In an ideal world we’d have some sort of statistical mechanism to measure how many such images there were ten years ago, five years ago, two years ago, and a year ago.

    But we don’t. So maybe it’s just important to take note of how people react to these types of things. And while of course my view is biased by the things I choose to read and the people I choose to discuss this with, I still feel strongly that we’re at a cross roads and the tides are turning. There’s simply too much great stuff out there for this to be all there is.

    Save the Children also put out this great multimedia web piece this year —

    It seems short sighted to mention either project without the other.

    Save the Children certainly isn’t putting a unified or clear message out there about poverty, but maybe they’re still trying to figure out what’s what.

    I feel strongly that, more than anything else, this is a process.

  2. David Campbell

    Nothing in this post says or implies that this is all there is. In fact, it starts from the opposite premise. We think it is still noteworthy, however, that in 2010 these sorts of images are being (re)produced. Are there fewer stereotypes around? If you have some evidence beyond personal anecdotes or hunches that we are at a crossroads and the tide has in fact turned, it would be interesting to hear what that evidence is.

  3. I wish I had evidence – I think my point about the statistical survey is that I don’t. I don’t think these are the kinds of things that can be measured without a team of statisticians, and while I’m hoping my statistician brother will lend me weeks of his time, until then, I think all we can do is keep collecting instances that show both sides of this and try and test the waters for which way the tides are turning.

  4. Interesting.

    Save The Children also used such an advert in banner ads on The Guardian website (I took a screen grab earlier this year). That is a clear editorial decision that a ‘shocking image’ is the best one to get people to donate.

    Wouldn’t it be a good idea just to test which images provoke the ‘best response? Of course how we define ‘best’ is critical to the debate.

    This is quite easy to to do, just use two different banner ads with different images and evaluate the response.

  5. David Campbell

    As I understand it, SCF, in conjunction with LCC, has been conducting some research on which sorts of images provoke what sorts of response. Here’s hoping they make some findings public in the new year. This sort of research is likely to be a combination of focus groups and qualitative analysis rather than statistical surveys. Content analysis of selected media outlets or platforms would be another way to go. One thing we might find is some variation in the range of images being produced compared to the narrower selection used or published.

  6. kb worden

    Well, look at the photo that heads this “Imaging Famine Bog.” The photographer looks like he’s doing a shoot of a model…”Put your elbow up, darling…that’s right, now step to the left a bit…”– it’s exploitative.

    We are either shown the lone child or the lone dictator. For the first, there is no context with the second, from which we just see the ubiquitous corruption which is, yawn, normal. Now, connect them. Like it was said on “The World” 08/02/2011 8:15 EST: show the dictator’s thugs keeping the children from the drinking water. THAT is where “attention must be paid.”

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