Monday, December 9, 2013

The Media and Women

As you can see, this blog post won't contain an actual picture, but rather a video. More specifically, a short video that demonstrates the way that Photoshop distorts the image of women in our media. Give it a look:

We are living in an era where every single flaw in a photograph or a video can be erased by Photoshop, which has created an unrealistic expectation of what beauty and perfection entail. Girls in the third grade have started wearing makeup, and eating disorders are rampant. Despite the numerous campaigns that attempt to show this distortion to the public and encourage young women to feel beautiful (such as Idea 9 and the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty), the warped female image can be seen all over commercials, billboards and magazines. The media and its control over what constitutes perfection has had enormous effects on our culture.

One such effect was brought up recently by a female news anchor who was called fat in an email by a viewer. She described that adults like this man are perpetually worsening and spreading this problem to the next generation. When one believes in the unreal images that the media feeds us and rejects anything different by calling someone fat or ugly, the younger generation watches and learns, and in turn, they spread the rejection of those who do not fit the media's false image. There seems to be no way out of this trap other than leading by example. If we reject these fake images, bringing their effects to light through proposals like Idea 9, and promote the appreciation of real beauty through campaigns like the Dove Campaign, then perhaps we can change things for the next generation.

As the news anchor describes in her video (link above), no one can know anything about her just by seeing her image on a TV screen. The fact that a man passed judgement on her as a person just because of her weight is unsettling, and attacks like this based solely on image must be fought against. There does, however, seem to be a movement towards the support of real beauty, as told by the news anchor through the amount of support that she has received since discussing the contents of the email. This is a movement that must be continued, and it must focus on looking past an image. We must shake the media's control of how we view and judge other human beings.

Video source:

Monday, November 25, 2013

A New Angle

It's incredible that capturing a photograph from a different angle can add a new dynamic to history. Below is a photo of the Tiananmen Square protests taken by a photographer named Terril Jones. In the background, standing in between two tree trunks, we see the iconic Tank Man, but from a completely new perspective. Jones hadn't published the photo until recently.

The other published versions of this photograph are taken at eye level, and all show the tanks as they are only a foot away from the lone man. This photo allows us to relook at the event and gives the moment more context. From this perspective, where the tanks are still far away, we see that the Tank Man is standing, preparing himself for a confrontation long before the tanks reach him. He looks small amidst the chaos and rubble, but his presence is clear and strong.

The most striking aspect of this photo is most definitely the context that we gain. The photograph of the Tank Man that was widely circulated before Jones' version appeared shows us a brave man standing his ground in front of a row of tanks. What it does not show us, however, is the rubble that surrounds the man or the bulldozer cleaning up the destruction beside him. The original photo does not show us the men running away from the scene. Perhaps these men wanted to be brave with the Tank Man, but were too afraid to stand before the tanks. Different parts of this moment's story suddenly unfold, strengthening our knowledge of the protests and of history. In a way, this new perspective on a famous photograph enhances its meaning, showing even deeper valor than we had even assumed before. We can see what the Tank Man saw around him, a man on a bike staring and passing by as the tanks rolls forward.

How incredible that so much can be gained from one photograph taken by a man standing at a different angle.

Image Source:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


I recently discussed an article in one of my classes about a comment that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu made regarding Iran. The comment was made during an interview with BBC Persian when Netanyahu attempted to get the Iranian public to oppose Iran's leaders and their nuclear program. He stated that, “If the people of Iran were free, they could wear jeans, listen to Western music and have free elections,” to which young Iranians on Twitter reacted immediately. Their indignant remarks spanned from comments questioning Netanyahu's intelligence to photos demonstrating how very wrong Netanyahu was. Here is one of the images mentioned in the article: 

 The man by the Twitter handle of Sallar sat in his home somewhere in Iran, probably wearing jeans, and tweeted this picture. This photo could've been taken by anyone anywhere in the world, be it in the United States, Israel or Iran. The world community has become so similar in so many ways, and still there seem to be walls built around our sections of the world that keep us from seeing any other nation for what they actually are. Despite the widespread outrage in response to Netanyahu's comment, I'm almost certain that somebody (or likely a large number of people throughout the world) agreed with him and the way he thinks Iranians live their lives. Despite the tyranny of their government, the people of Iran do, in fact, wear jeans and listen to Western music. This is just hidden by the image we have created of Iran, among many other Islamic nations throughout the Middle East. It makes us sure that their nations are dark and robotic.

Our image of Iran and other parts of the Middle East is outdated. In a region so plagued by conflict, it is difficult to imagine people living normal lives and coming home to listen to pop or rock and roll, but these people really do exist, as we can see from the image above. How can we work to build bridges between nations and improve communication to end conflict when we don't even understand the countries that are constantly in the news? With media coverage often discussing conflict, nuclear weapons and warfare, it is easy to assume Iran is a "bad" place. Even Netanyahu, prime minister of a nation much closer to Iran than the United States, seems to hold this distorted image of the nation. But behind conflict and government lie real human beings who have families and wear jeans and listen to Western music, just like us. In order to find the humanity in another culture, we must learn to look past the images that media and our society provide.

Image source:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Faris Odeh: The Image of a Martyr

I find it fascinating that one photo can fuel the emotions of an entire nation of people. A single photograph taken by a photojournalist at precisely the right moment can create a martyr in a culture, and can spark a powerful movement.

This is a photo of Faris Odeh, a Palestinian boy who threw stones at Israeli Defense Forces occupying an area of Palestine near the Gaza Strip. A week or so after the photo was taken, Odeh was shot dead by Israeli Forces when he was throwing stones again. This photo was then published, and an immediate reaction burst from all different corners of the world. The reaction was so vast, in fact, that it prompted tens of thousands of people to attend his funeral. His image has become iconic, and through his image, he himself has become a martyr for Palestinian defiance.

And how could this image not spark a reaction? What we see is a young boy standing all alone, fighting the presence of an enormous tank with only stones. My first thought after finding the photo was that Faris Odeh almost seemed to be a modern day Tank Man, fighting for a strong cause by standing up to a tank. One of the many differences between these two situations, however, is the fact that with Odeh's picture, we know the name of the martyr. And since we know the name, we can add a story.

I believe the majority of photos lack a certain context. Just by looking at this image, we have no clue what the boy's story is, other than the fact that he was Palestinian and strongly against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The picture serves its purpose by creating strong reactions in its viewers, but with his name in mind, I couldn't help but wonder Faris's story.

Faris was a daredevil. Once conflict arrived in his region, he skipped class to get in on the action, much to the dismay of his teachers and his parents. His parents would get calls from teachers and neighbors warning them that Faris was out again. On occasion, his father would beat him for getting involved in the conflict; for this reason, he avoided cameras and news reporters, fearing that his father would find out about him. What struck me the most was a statement from his mother, who said that Faris watched the Hezbollah channel called Al-Manar, a channel that held becoming a martyr in high regard. She says that he wanted to join them.

It's unreal how large of an effect media can have on us, and especially on children. Looking at Faris's backstory allowed me to gain an entirely new perspective on his photograph, especially regarding his ideals and his motivations. While a picture is incredibly powerful in and of itself, there is so much that it cannot tell.

Photo source:

Monday, October 14, 2013

The African Image

When one thinks of Africa through a Western perspective, there seems to be a distinct image that comes to mind. We've all seen the commercials and campaigns that attempt to grab your sympathy (and your money) by portraying Africa as a helpless continent characterized by political instability, starvation, civil war, and general suffering. This is "really" and "truly" Africa in the eyes of most Americans. This is the image that we have created.

Poor, dependent Africa. Keep in mind, I am not attempting to argue that Africa does not have these problems; these issues certainly exist and are widespread. But I am arguing that there is also an issue when an entire continent is characterized by one image (like the one featured above). The poor, starving children who absolutely need help from America and from other foreign nations seems to be the only image shown by our Western media via television, documentaries, newspapers, the Internet, etc. This raises the inevitable question: What are we leaving out? If Africa needs our help, then they must have no big cities or modernization, right? No, of course not. But this seems to be the general understanding that we have. It's not all safaris and poverty. Africa does, in fact, have large cities. Take this image, for example:

At first glance, one would not assume that this is a city in Africa. This is a photo of the city of Lagos in Nigeria, which recently surpassed Cairo as Africa's largest city. This city, as well as many others throughout Africa, is experiencing a massive growth in population, as well as in their economy. Lagos' tax revenue now exceeds $93 million/month, allowing it to innovate and to improve transportation and sanitation systems. This is still Africa.

Other groups have also taken on the issue of a bad African image, and are striving to find the positives throughout the continent. Take and, for example. Both of these sites present the good in Africa, promoting both innovation and positive news. Reading articles in this different perspective almost makes it feel as if you're reading about an entire different continent; this side of the African image just isn't as widely recognized. While of course, it is essential to pay attention to the negative issues of Africa in order to make progress and improve lives, it is also important to take a look at the good, and at the great progress that is already occurring. One dark, helpless image is simply not enough to convey all of Africa.


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Power of Pictures

A few years ago, I took an Introduction to Broadcasting class at my high school. One of the main focuses of this class was the way that media, specifically photos and videos, affect our culture. Fifteen-year-old me was fascinated; it seemed that photos themselves had the power to manipulate emotions, to spread current events in the world, and even to characterize entire events in history. Photos can spark both love and hatred. Photos can be used to preserve memories of friends and family, or they can be used to solve a terrible crime. I find it absolutely incredible that the simple click of a camera can create such a long list of lasting effects. And this, I believe, is because of the power of the stories that may lie beneath a photograph. 

Take this photo, for example. A photo of a man standing in front of a row of tanks in Tiananmen Square, possibly one of the most famous photos ever taken. The name of the man in this picture was never confirmed, and yet the anonymous tank man has come to symbolize the Tiananmen Square protests themselves. The photo has become an inseparable component of history, creating widespread awareness of the events that occurred there. It seems that at times, it is more simple to spread the human aspect and the emotions of breaking news through photographs, rather than through spoken word.

There is a proverb that says "The eyes are the window to the soul." I believe that photos, much like eyes, are the window to the soul of our culture and of our society. I have made it my priority to strive to find the most impactful photos that portray what is occurring in different parts of the world, and to analyze the effects that these photographs have.  Through this blog, I hope to share my findings.

Photo Source: