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The power of photography and saving children

Save the Children has put photography at the heart of it’s campaigns right from the beginning. For our first ever campaign in 1919, Eglantyne Jebb (our amazing founder) distributed posters in Trafalgar Square featuring incredibly emaciated children. She was outraged that the children on the losing side of the war were starving to death and she knew that showing people what was happening would be the most effective way to galvanise people into action. She was arrested for her actions, but ultimately raised £400K in today’s money to feed millions of children across Europe.

Photo handed out by Eglantyne Jebb in Trafalgar Square in 1919
Photo handed out by Eglantyne Jebb in Trafalgar Square in 1919

90 years later we picked an equally difficult subject – the conflict in Gaza. We challenged the UK public to act, again using an emotive image. This campaign had an incredible effect – generating the largest ever UK SMS petition (200,000 in just a few days), ultimately raising millions for to help children and their families through our programme work in Gaza. We also know this helped spur our government to take a strong line on the conflict.

Emotionally powerful image used to generate support for our Gaza campaign
Emotionally powerful image used to generate support for our Gaza campaign

We haven’t shied away from taking and using powerful images but we also understand that photography can have a negative impact – both on how our audiences percieve the developing world and on the lives of those we represent. So we wanted to find out how we can depict injustice but do it in an ethical way.

After a bit of digging around we discovered that no one had done any comprehensive research into what communities felt about the way they are represented in photos.  So this is the challenge we’ve taken on!

We set off to find out what communities in Afghanistan, Gaza, Kenya and India thought not just about the photos of themselves but also about how they felt about being photographed and whether they knew why their photo was being taken and what it was going to be used for.

I’d be interested to hear what people think.

I’ll be keeping you up to date with how the project progresses.

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