A Tool for Change

K Madhavan Pillai

K Madhavan Pillai

Our brains are wired for visuals. A much larger part of our reflexes are connected to what we see. If I ask you to count the most famous quotes you remember, as opposed to the most enduring photographs you have seen, the images that spring to mind will easily outnumber the quotes you remember. This is because words are symbols for commonly understood meanings. They represent either what we physically sense or the emotions we feel. Sight is the most powerful of all our senses. There are more words associated with our visual memories of objects, scenes and colours than those for sounds, smells, tastes or touch.Reasoning and rationale apart, more is communicated with visuals than with words because most words ever written or spoken are mostly noise. The same can be said of digital photography nowadays, though. Yet, even poorly exposed, badly composed or terribly manipulated images have the power to cause riots. And a single poignant frame can move the masses to stop wars.

Photography is a wonderful tool for social change. Newspapers and magazines report the drama unfolding on the world’s stage. Photojournalists shoulder the huge responsibility to document truths and facts. However, as photographers, each one of us also have the power to shoot and report on things we feel strongly about. With the extent of sharing possible on social networks today, a simple exposé can turn into an exodus.

On a much smaller, less expensive level, a carefully thought out exhibition of cabinet sized images on the walls of the local fish market or a housing complex can get people to act, or at the very least, talk about it.

The question we need to ask ourselves is whether we can do at least this much, empathetically and meaningfully, with all this enourmous opinion-forming power that image-making gives us.

This article originally appeared in the Setpember 2012 issue of Better Photography.

Tags: K Madhavan Pillai, symbols, better photography, visuals, memories, quotes, september 2012, magazines