Image-induced appeals to action


Famine - Photograph by Stan Grossfeld - 1985 - Pulitzer Prize

Photography, the subject of numerous and important analyzes such as those of Roland Barthes and Pierre Bourdieu, it should be remembered that, according to Susan Sontag, it has a greater incisiveness than television and film images. Sontag believes that "memory makes use of the still image; its basic unit is the single image. In an age of information overload, photographs provide a quick way to learn and a compact form to memorize. A photograph is similar. to a quote, a maxim or a proverb". The different possible representations of pain lead to reflect on the relationship between images and action. At certain times, you need a punch in the stomach, which shakes indifference, because there is the temptation to look away, to pretend to believe that certain things don't happen, even if balance is needed. Amnesty International does not disdain the use of images of pain, accompanied by clear explanatory captions, in the awareness that the photo is nothing without the caption that says what to read (Bourdieu). The image leads to action, to a politics of piety that essentially develops with cash donations from individuals, through the courageous word of groups of people and a strong awareness, which is born in us, from the observation of images. emblematic. The goal is to get the message across, to involve people in the problem and induce them to do something, through targeted appeals that leverage generosity, involvement in participation, the humanitarian action of donation. These messages have an extraordinary impact, characterized by: 1. immediacy, thanks to titles ranging from irony to sarcasm. 2. stimulus to action, fueling indignation; 3. attack on denial: the problem is not only what happens, but apathy, indifference, public denial in the face of what everyone knows and which does not only concern ordinary people, but the whole human consortium (States of denial - Stanley Cohen). An argumentative structure which, to overcome indifference, must be based on simplicity. The message must create a connection between what you need to know and what you need to do.

CONCLUSIONS If on the one hand the image can have meritorious mobilizing effects, on the other hand the risk of spectacularization must be taken into account, not dwelling too long on negative images, thus also resorting to positive images that restore confidence in the concrete possibility of a committed action, oriented by moral values ​​and, at the same time, stimulate it. The image is used to remember, the word to understand, says Susan Sontag. Great, therefore, is the responsibility of those who, not only in the field of journalism, use both images and words to counter the current crisis of piety (Luc Boltanski) closely connected with the viewer's dilemma.

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