Powerful Images Changing the World

Column A: Activism/Advocacy

Column B: Newspapers

Column C: “Research shows how one devastating image totally changed how we talk about the refugee crisis

“A picture is worth a thousand words” — Tess Flanders

It’s astonishing how it takes only one single image to have the ability to shake the world up into a frenzy of emotions and controversy. Aamna Mohdin touches upon the infamous photo of a toddler, Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body on a Turkish beach. She addresses on the change of public perceptions and actions that can be evoked by powerful images released to the public in her article: “Research shows how one devastating image totally changed how we talk about the refugee crisis”.

Images are the driving forces of newspapers, it is what draws the eye of any individual. All forms of media use images to entice the audiences, they have the power to create, destroy and even dictate one’s own consciousness.

Powerful photographs such as Nilüfer Demir’s devastating photo of a Syrian boy on the beaches of Bodrum who supposedly drowned along with his 5-year-old brother and 11 other Syrian migrants, took over the front pages of the news sphere, shocking the world of heartbreak for the child.

Lifeless body of Alan Kurdi lying face down on the beach. Photo by Nilüfer Demir

This very photograph had the potential to influence viewer’s political opinions. Scholars Lazarsfeld and Merton suggests that media can help encourage social action. That media has the power to initiate change through its enforcement of combatting social norms.

“The mass media may initiate organized social action by exposing conditions which are at variance with public moralities” — Lazarsfeld and Merton

By publicly revealing impressions that fights social norms and morals, the media, which in this case, the photos being mediated, is presenting the people with a choice. To either act against the unknown and continue to live by the norm or openly diverge from it, this type of thinking can easily be integrated in photographs explicitly or implicitly.

Mohdin addresses how the attitudes towards the migration of the Syrian refugees were quite mixed as specific labels such as “migrants” and “refugees” were used interchangeably. Demir’s photo was able to resonate with the world, as it became an inspiration to sway social views. For instance, the number of people using the word “refugee” dramatically increased. This vivid medium “changed the language used on social media about the refugee crisis”, it was that influential.

Artists then began appropriating the image to create a statement. These viewpoints and messages are created to communicate to the public of the distress going on.

Especially when Canada has recently allowed Syrian refugees to enter the country, journalists and citizens gather around these appropriated images to provide a opportunity to reflect such turbulent times.

Regardless of where an individual would fall on the political spectrum or any other issues out in the world, a push is needed and that very push is provided by the numerous mediums of media courtesy of most journalists. New media has the power to inform the people, to sway the public opinion, to expose the good and the bad. Numerous political changes and social movements have occurred because of media exposure, which can be frightening, given how easily opinions can be bend just because of what is being articulated 24/7.

The intentions of the photograph were made very clear to the public. Virtually every image presents us with some sort of implied or explicit morality, a way of thinking or behaving, whether it be for the good or for the bad, it raises awareness of our humanity.

“The power of [images] can be compared only with the power of the atomic bomb.” — Lazarsfeld and Merton
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