Imaging Famine

There are so many issues at play when thinking about how to image famine and suffering. Who is our audience, what kind of response are we expecting, which form of media is strong enough to provoke a response to action, and is that the response we want in the first place? Do images stifle the sense of inability to help or make change, or do they evoke a response at all? Is it the images themselves that influence this, in what ways do external factors play a more important part in this process?

You can put images aside, you can choose to look at something or not. Maybe the success of the LiveAid and other big campaigns was not as much in power of the images, as in the fact that the images were shown to large groups of people who would otherwise not see them. Through the use of popular artists and media outlets the effects of famine were shown on a much larger scale than ever before.

To me it seems that in general there is not much interest in development countries or poverty, because people don’t really know what to do about it. They feel an overwhelming sense of guilt, but an inability to act. I think this is more stifling than the act of looking at heartbreaking scenes itself. Or maybe most people are just busy living their own lives and struggle enough with their own personal challenges.

“On the one hand you have these crises, a public that is more reticent and you also have a press in Britain that does not understand the nuances of why aid makes a lot of sense.” (McVeigh and Quinn, 2017)

“Everyone knows if we responded in a better resourced way and earlier on, we could reduce the suffering and save lives and it would be cheaper,” said Saeed. “As a global community we haven’t been able to [tackle] this issue of how do you address famine? How do you get the resources before it’s too late?” (McVeigh and Quinn, 2017)

What I miss in most campaigns from development organizations is the link to how the audiences life is connected with those living in poverty. That draught, environmental disasters and famine are closely connected to global warming and the way capitalism works. I think it might be an idea to visualize these connections in such a way that viewers can actually see their own responsibility or response which will make a change.

McVeigh, K. and Quinn, B. (2017). Famine looms in four countries as aid system struggles to cope, experts warn. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 29 May 2017].


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