Do you think photography has changed the world or impacted the world?

1 Answer
Sep 27, 2017

It has had an enormous impact.


I'm not sure if this is a question in two parts or is asking one of two alternatives. I think photography has done both.

It is difficult to be succinct because photography has impacted on every aspect of society, for example inequality, ethnicity, urbanisation, environmental issues, fashion, music, and many more. To answer the question I'll base my answer on one area, conflict.

The first conflict which was photographed was The Crimean War in the 1850's. The photography along with the journalist Russell's reports in The Times, brought home to the British public the realities of war.

Since then every conflict up until and including the Vietnam War has been extensively photographed. What sort of impact has this had and what change if any has resulted?

There were the effects of the concentration camps of the British during the Boer War resulting in the deaths of thousands from disease and starvation. This was a factor in the hardening of Boer attitudes to the British and their determination to secure political power.

The horrors of trench warfare, during World War 1, were graphically demonstrated by photography.

The imagery of the Nazi death camp survivors and prisoners of war held by the Japanese shocked the world and contributed to a determination to bring the perpetrators to trial. This was reflected in the Nuremberg War Trials in 1946.

Photography of the Vietnam conflict, e.g. the imagery of Tet and My Lai added to the growing opposition of the American public to the war, and an eventual American withdrawal.

I feel Vietnam was a watershed, because governments became aware of the power of imagery both of photography and television. As a result there has been heavy censorship of war imagery since the 60's. Photographers and cameramen are now embedded with troops so that only images which are deemed acceptable by governments are now allowed.

However given the number of conflicts that exist in the world today the power of imagery is still capable of drawing the attention of the world.