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Title: The ‘falling man’ and other stories : issues in the production, distribution and reception of photojournalism
Authors: Debono, Stephanie
Keywords: Photojournalism
Mass media
Issue Date: 2019
Abstract: Within the contemporary media culture, can photojournalism be a tool for social change and improvement? Are photographs of suffering able to move the audience into taking action to end or lessen the suffering of others? This dissertation attempts to answer these questions by tackling three major aspects of photojournalism: its production by the photojournalist, its distribution by the media, and its reception by the audience. The opening chapter explores the meaning of photographs: how it is created, and how it is extracted. It explores the photograph’s universality while also highlighting the fact that photographs are still not understood by everyone. One of the major limitations of the photograph is discussed — its inability to record the passing of time. This has an effect on how the audience perceives the suffering shown by the image. It is concluded that the photograph is ambiguous by nature, and that this makes its interpretation and meaning subjective to each individual. The second chapter explores the photograph’s characteristics through a discussion of the four sites involved in the production, distribution and reception of press photographs: the site of production, the site of the image, the site of circulation and the site of audiencing. The two different modes of photography — inside and outside — are explored, together with the semiotics of photography, wherein it is argued that at the site of the image, signs are not enough to tell the subject’s story. Finally, this chapter discusses the role of the audience in the circulation and viewership of press photographs. It is argued that despite the limitations of the photograph and other factors which may influence the nature of the press photograph, the audience holds the power to decide whether action is taken or not. The third chapter explores issues external to the photograph itself, related to the media’s use of press photographs. These issues influence the audience’s response to photographs of suffering irrespective of their own knowledge of signs and cultural awareness, and of the photograph’s defining features and limitations. This chapter presents a discussion of the notion of compassion fatigue, criticism directed at the publication of photographs showing suffering and death, as well as the ways in which photojournalism is shown by the media and seen by the audience. The latter also includes propaganda by the media as well as the manipulation of photographs, which affect the audience's level of believability. It is concluded that while the limitations of the photograph are an important factor to consider, the social and political context of a photograph, determined by the media and the ways in which it uses the image, is perhaps an even stronger determiner of how photojournalism is received by the audience. In light of the arguments raised throughout this dissertation, it is concluded that there are three major pillars which influence the audience’s reception of photojournalism: the photojournalist, the media, and the audience itself. Each of these three has a responsibility, to ensure that the stories communicated by press photographs are as truthful, accurate and informative as can possibly be. The more of these values a photograph has, the better it is likely to be received by the audience.
Description: M.A.ENGLISH
Appears in Collections:Dissertations - FacArt - 2019
Dissertations - FacArtEng - 2019

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