laif Photo Series
The photo ‘series’ is an integral part of visual communication. Multiple images can tell a more comprehensive story in ways that a single image cannot. This is important for the purposes of impactful climate change imagery for a few reasons.
Our research discovered that for an image to be effective, it needs to be easily-understood by the audience. While this may seem obvious, it raises a challenge for introducing ‘new stories’ – something our focus groups wanted to see more of. ‘New stories’ are integral to expanding the visual language around climate change and a collection of photos on a subject can help our audiences understand what is really going on. This in turn means they are more likely to act upon that information. Single images provide a snapshot, but multiple (or moving) images can narrate an even more powerful story.
Our research also highlighted the need to show ‘real people doing real things’. A photo series can make this task easier and the communicator doesn’t have to rely on one image to do the heavy lifting. Furthermore, our research indicated that some imagery, especially related to climate change impacts, can provoke strong negative emotions and can be overwhelming. Therefore, it is important to couple these with a clear instruction for the viewer on how to ‘act’ on their emotional engagement. This can also be achieved through a photo series.
The following three photo series have been selected by the Climate Visuals team as good examples of series that follow the Climate Visuals principles. They have been curated from larger bodies of work from our partner laif.
This photo series by German photographer Frieder Blickle documents the practice of covering glaciers to protect them from the summer sun. Climate change imagery is often synonymous with melting ice and glaciers. But rarely do we see a human element in the image, especially one that shows the extent that humans will go to to try and protect these glaciers and the economy that relies on them. While one image of a glacier covered by cloth would potentially be difficult to understand, the series helps the audience grasp the scale of this ‘new story’.
Our research found that images from climate impacts, especially in a scene of absolute destruction as seen in this series, are likely to provoke strong negative emotions and a feeling in the viewer that they should ‘do something’ in response. The inclusion of imagery in this series of people ‘getting on’ with their lives has the potential to reduce the possible feeling of despair in the viewer and may help turn that strong emotional response into something to act upon.
Additionally, the German photographer Jens Grossmann has worked hard to include humans in the frame, something that was deemed very important in our research (but is often missing from mainstream climate imagery). Please remember, just as for images of distressed individuals in images depicting poverty, it is important to be sensitive to the way in which images like this are used. The photographer has indicated that these images cannot be used by aid organizations.
This photo series by Danish award-winning freelance photojournalist & documentary filmmaker Anders Birch documents the impacts of sea-level rise and flooding in Bangladesh. This series was chosen because it focuses on the human story of this climate impact. It consistently uses a human subject to provide scale and draw the audience into the story. For example, the image of a woman cooking in her flooded house drives home the real cost of climate change for individuals and communities in a clear way.