When Has a Photo Caused You to Act?

When Has a Photo Caused You to Act?

In the perennial discussion of the value and role of photography, I raise yet another example of the power of the image.

Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines on November 7th with a force that exceeded the Dvorak scale, which measures storm strength. The 195 mph with gusts over 230 mph is one of the top three strongest storms ever recorded, and when the final details are in, it might prove to be the strongest storm to ever hit land.

But citing statistics – even in recounting the number of the dead – is nothing like the power of a photo.

Photo by Digital Globe

Photo by Digital Globe

It is impossible to look at this photo and not be affected by the destruction, and wonder about the lives that have been irrevocably changed or ended.

This particular set of before and after photos reminded me of similar photos from the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake off the coast of Japan or the 2013 tornado photos from Moore, OK. The level of devastation is so massive, and in these cases, seeing satellite or bird’s eye views of the destruction along with photos from the ground sends a most powerful message.

People lament seeing images of destruction and tragedy, but when a photo causes us to first pause, and then act – by protesting, donating, or volunteering – it acts as connective tissue for humanity that transcends language. The photo is more than a document, it’s an instrument of change. These photos compelled me to open my wallet. I hope they do the same for you.

Help out the Philippines. Donate to the Red Cross.

 

 

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