You know the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words?” Well, I think a picture is worth a million words.
Look at the image above. What do you think these people are doing with their phones? Who are these people? What is the significance behind a simple picture of technologically consumed people taking a picture of the moon with their phones?
In reality, the photograph represents the exact opposite. In fact, this is why it was named the 2014 World Press Photo of the Year. The perfectly simplistic shot captures African migrants on Djibouti’s shore holding their phones above their heads to gain a less expensive signal from the neighboring country of Somalia.
The photograph, titled “Signal,” was crowned champion not only for its soothing composition but instead because of the meaning it holds. “Signal” represents the impact technology has on our lives, not only in the United States, but in third-world countries as well.
It is captivating to think how you would handle the situation presented in “Signal” if you were forced to travel to the outskirts of your city in an attempt to physically reach to the sky to receive the cheapest signal available. We complain when our Netflix doesn’t load in the appropriate amount of time, we wouldn’t stand a chance.
But, that’s the reality in the majority of the world. The photograph sets to address the growing reliance of technology in our world and the capabilities of the progressions in the field. We often only associate third-world countries with needing the essentials – food, water, shoes, books, etc. But, we forget to progressively use our minds to embody the thought of their reliance of technology as well, even in third-world countries.
I urge you to consider the following. Why did this photograph out of so many other controversial images win the photo of the year? How often have you thought about technology in third-world countries?
“Signal” is an example of the power of photojournalism. Sure, you could read a thousand, or a million, word journal on the influence of technology in the third-worlds and learn new data, statistics and examples on usage in various places like Somalia, Haiti and Afghanistan. But, it will never leave the same impact in your mind as a photograph does.
Our world has become accustomed to gaining interest by images then proceeding to learn more through text that follows. Photography is one of the most important forms of media today. Possibly this is just my inner photography-inspired self talking, though I don’t think that I am the only one attracted to discovering the message beneath a picture.
Next time you read an article that is led with a photograph, ask yourself if the same message would be conveyed without the picture lead. My guess is, most will fall short.