16 Pages

Evaluating news photographs

Trust, impact and consumer culture in the digital age
WithAndrea Pogliano

The paper is based on an empirical study recently conducted in Italy through the photo-elicitation technique, involving 120 young Italians and focusing on two groups of individuals—an experimental and a control group. The two groups were shown images related to global crisis events. The first was told which photos were taken by professionals, which by citizens and which by other people involved in the events (soldiers, victims, perpetrators, etc.), while the second group was not provided with this information. Both groups were asked a battery of questions regarding the themes of trust, value, impact, use and circulation/distribution of the photographs shown, allowing the interviewees to define these concepts in the face of individual images. The principal results indicate that trust in news photographs is inseparable from impact and value for the development of a sense of active citizenship. Trust is revised in light of the awareness that there exists a variety of possible publics, active and passive, with different possibilities of affecting events through their actions. The distinction between citizen and professional photographs does not in itself lead to distinctions in terms of value and trust. Knowing the photographer's role in the event being depicted redefines the terms of the discourse and shifts the moral borderlines that the publics draw between different images and different media for their distribution. Introducing the ethnographic approach, the present study proposes going beyond studies that concentrate only on effects as well as those focused on trust, which prescribe a distinction between citizen and professional photojournalism.