The Self and The Other

OCA study blog | Andrew Fitzgibbon

Ex 2.1 | portrayal as ‘others’

This exercise requires an example from the national press where I feel that a photograph (with or without its accompanying caption and text) has portrayed an individual or group as ‘others’.

Source: barker.co.uk

The preferred reading (what the photographer intended at the time, or reflective of the dominant ideology)

I was drawn to this image when searching through Google images of newspaper front pages in relation to UK food banks because it seemed an unlikely journalistic photograph. Would a newspaper print a photo of a crying child at a food bank, sharing the child’s misfortune with anyone knowing his face? The photo also seemed to be lit and photographed like a portrait, with the dark background adding vivid contrast to the evenly lit child’s face – it doesn’t look like an impromptu press photograph.

A little digging led to me to Dan Barker’s blog post, fake photos (available at: http://barker.co.uk/fakephotos ) where he’d already researched the image and found it was a photo of an American child by his mother (a photographer), which had been sold to the Daily Mirror by Getty Images. The original Flickr post is here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/laurenrosenbaum/4084544644/in/photostream/ where there are comments relating to the photo’s use to illustrate food poverty.

So the photographer had no intention other than making a another photograph of her children (many on her Flickr page) that she might also sell as a stock image. Here’s what she says on Flickr:

I am making the (perhaps faulty) assumption that they licensed it through Getty. Sales don’t show up for months so I won’t know for a while, unless it was purchased in March, which I doubt. I didn’t know they were going to use it.

We are okay having our children’s pictures in the stock library. Generally if it’s a touchy subject they will contact you and get an extra waiver; that wasn’t done in this instance.

However, it is not the photographer representing the image in our case, it is mediated through a newspaper, which represents it in a different way to the photograph’s original representation. Stuart Hall argues that representation is part of the event (not after) – so bundled with it; here we see the newspaper as re-bundled an image with its story to create a fresh representation. The preferred reading of the injustice and misery of hunger experienced by some within a wealthy economy.

The negotiated reading (the viewers accepting some of the intended meaning based on their world view – perhaps the commonest of readings)

The use of the image in context of UK food banks was controversial. However, it is apparent and not unexpected from some sharing of the cover page to forums (eg – https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=2652244) that some took the image at face value as a representation of the story the headline presents.  And even when, aware of the image’s origin, some didn’t have an issue with it as an illustration of the story. They chose to accept the meaning of the misery of hunger.

The oppositional reading  (the viewer rejects the intended meaning – how many of us might view Victorian colonial images, or hunting or war trophy images, for example)

A different perspective on the image (including that of Dan Barker) questioned the lack of journalistic integrity through using the image as a spectacle to support the headline. The reading was that of a fake image detracting from and undermining the story itself, raising questions about whether anything reported could be trusted as reliable. A reading of poor quality journalism that should not be trusted.

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