In a video interview with Circle of Blue, Kenny Irby, visual journalism group leader and diversity program director of the Poynter Institute, discusses the power of photos to drive social change.
Photojournalism can take people to places vicariously that they seldom hear about and never been to — a play off of Howard Chapman. But anyway, you can do that and so if you can bring understanding and knowledge to people by way of the website, by way of the storytelling, where journalists authentically go out and witness and document and bring that back, that all moves to the consciousness raising, and awareness raising, and hopefully will move people to action.
When I think about Circle of Blue, I think about the reality that most world challenges have been addressed and overcome, those that have been — and many have been overcome — by way of the photograph, by way of the visual.
For example, in the deep South, people heard about the Jim Crow segregation — for years and years and years people wrote about it, people gave oral commentary on the radio — but it wasn’t until pictures came out and people saw the realities that social consciousness and movement moved to a place that we can’t tolerate that anymore.
Think about South Africa and Apartheid: same reality. Think about Chechnya: same reality. You look around the world, Tiananmen square: it wasn’t until the image that’s embedded in our mental photo albums that you see the defiance of one individual against a tank. Those kinds of things. Then people start saying, “we need to deal with these realities.”
The world freshwater realities on the planet I think are at a similar state, and while no pictures themselves won’t move people to action, but pictures in context with affirmation and confirmation and solutions, which is what Circle of Blue is integrally a part of, of putting forth for the masses to be able to engage.
Circle of Blue’s east coast correspondent based in New York. He specializes on water conflict and the water-food-energy nexus. He previously worked as a political risk analyst covering equatorial Africa’s energy sector, and sustainable development in sub-Saharan Africa. Contact: Cody.Pope@circleofblue.org