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  • Minjae Chun

The Secrets Behind Photography: How One Photo Impacts Our Society

Updated: Dec 11, 2021

by Minjae Chun


Over the years, photography has become a valuable way of stimulating emotional and psychological responses in our bodies. A picture is worth a thousand words, and photography is a way for people to connect to their emotions and psychological states in a whole new sense. As a matter of fact, mindfulness in photograph can lead to greater awareness of our surroundings and of ourselves, in addition to our emotional state about how we interact with our world.

For instance, Malcom Browne, a photographer who is known for his shocking and provocative photographs, published his now iconic photo of the self-immolation of a Buddhist monk (Thich Quang Duc) on Saigon street June 11, 1963 to protest alleged persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. The moment the photograph was revealed to the world, people were in disbelief. The image depicted half of the monk’s body on fire in the middle of the road, while he was in a lotus position, cross legged. Browne’s photograph influenced many countries due to such emotional force the photograph captured. As a matter of fact, this one photograph influenced the society as a whole. The image was more than a symbol since it fueled a Revolution, toppled a regime, and may be the reason that America entered the Vietnam War. President John Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, later commented, “No news picture in history has generated so much emotion around the world as that one.” Moreover, TIME magazine stated, “Browne’s photo forced people to question the U.S.’s association with Diem’s government, and soon resulted in the Administration’s decision not to interfere with a coup that November.”

Another example of a photograph that greatly swayed public opinion on current events by evoking an emotional response is a photograph titled: “Vulture and the little girl.” This prize-winning photograph was taken by Kevin Carter, a South African photojournalist. This remarkable photograph depicts the 1994 famine in Sudan. In this particular piece, a vulture is waiting to feed on a dying toddler in Sudan which summed up the cruelty of the famine. People were heartbroken when they saw this image and myriad volunteers immediately found ways to directly help alleviate the suffering of the Sudanese. Ultimately, this photography even played a factor in motivating the United Nations to establish the UN Operation Lifeline Sudan – an organization that has provided diplomatic cover and operational support to allow long term humanitarian and emergency food aid in the long-running Sudanese war. Hence, this organization was a commencement for the citizens from international countries to also contribute in benefiting the Sudanese people.

With photography becoming more and more prevalent in everyday life through social

media and online presences, an increasing number of people can now realize how one

photograph can create social change and transform one’s conceptions. Taking the time to

comprehend the messages behind one image can influence your life powerful than anything

in the world.


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