Since photography was invented, we have been subjected to iconic photos representative of an endless variety of things.
Eamonn Kennedy, the director of the journalism, law and rights forum explains how “some of the best journalism is in the form of photos, what is important is what story it tries to convey.”
Some photos have been so good at telling a story that they have come to symbolise a major event. One photo that does this is the image of the Afghan Girl, which became symbolic of Soviet occupation in Afghanistan. Yet when the girl, Sharbat Gula was found seventeen years later, she was totally unaware of its worldwide fame.
Photographers have documented events like these, which alter perceptions and at their best can change lives. After the Swiss gold merchants saw Marcus Bleasdale’s images of the Congo gold trade, purchases stopped almost overnight.
A National Geographic journalist explained how photographers will sit with their subject for weeks learning all that they have to tell the world before finally taking the photo. In this way they can fully portray what subjects experience and tell a better story. He emphasises the sense of responsibility that a photographer has towards those who dared to trust them.
The photographers are trying to avoid what George Alagiah, a BBC journalist, calls “the unwritten code between the journalist and his subjects [whereby] the journalist observes, the subject is observed.” He mentions, “facts and figures are the easy part of journalism. Knowing where they sit in the grand scheme of things is much harder,” and the aim of the photographer is to give the stories this context.
Edward Steichen, the US photography dean in 1961, suggests that photography is “a major force in explaining man to man.”
Brandon Stanton shows the lives of ordinary people everyday with his blog Humans of New York. He has taken over 5000 portraits with a quote from each person, such as aspirations and regrets. He shows how everyone has a story to be told and from a photo and a quote he reveals a sense of personality from everyone he photographs.
By Eleanor Wade