Can photographs change the way we think about, or act within, the world?

Contribute to a series of on-line discussions and debates related to this year’s Deutsche Börse Photography Prize. Have your say on photography.

Can photographs change the way we think about, or act within, the world?


Photographs are prone to digital manipulation, construction and tactical misuse. At worst we are bombarded by a constant onslaught of photographs, and at some point in that flood of imagery we may become numbed to the content of, or questions raised by, any photograph or series. But at best these strange windows still provide a unique way of sharing in someone else’s vision and experience of the world. In doing this they can challenge our presumptions, pushing us to understand situations and ideas that we may have passed by or never had an opportunity to bear witness to. Have your say about the rising, diminished or otherwise power of photography.

11 Comments on “Can photographs change the way we think about, or act within, the world?”

  1. 1 P Wood said at 6:06 pm on February 11th, 2010:

    It might be useful to quote Susan Sontag here, with the same quote that the Brighton Photo Biennial also used as part of the publicity for its 2008 edition ‘Memory of Fire: the War of Images and Images of War’. Its source is from Sontag’s preface to ‘Don McCullin’:

    “A photograph can’t coerce, it won’t do the moral work for us but it can start us on the way.”

  2. 2 arghybhargy said at 10:57 am on February 24th, 2010:

    Photography def doesn’t make us change how we act in the world – totally the opposite, it makes us lazy and feel like we’ve seen it all without having to move from our comfortable armchairs or chichi gallery visit, then have a latte and forget about it afterward…

  3. 3 primaballerina said at 3:51 pm on February 25th, 2010:

    the reason why i want to become a photographer is because i want to take pictures that say for example: “hey, i’m asia. come and visit!”
    i want to capture emotions and thoughts so other people can follow them and think about it!
    i know it’s a banality, but it’s true: if you see a picture of a famous person, don’t you want to be like that person?
    art can be a reason for its self, but it can achieve something as well.

  4. 4 z-boy said at 3:00 pm on March 15th, 2010:

    I stopped eating meat after seeing pictures taken in an abatoir… I’m not squeamish, I just realised that I couldn’t justify consuming anything that I hadn’t killed humanely, by my own hand…

  5. 5 Clippingimages said at 5:38 am on March 20th, 2010:

    Yeah definitely. Photography is not only a passion … it is also depicting one’s idea to a broad audience.

  6. 6 Zo Flamma-Hil said at 2:29 pm on April 6th, 2010:

    Yes. Appreciation of the unappreciated, unoticed, neglected and taken for granted. Awareness of the forgotten ignored and silent. Photography also aids our Freedom to be creative opens up our imagination and perspective of the world,& integrate with our world other than just sound and touch etc. Photograply can connect and push our thoughts and make a new our visualisation of this world so we do not limit ourselves as a human race.

    Even if it does not change the way we think or act photography serves as an important reminder and tool to change and the price if we don’t and how much we will miss. Not only an eye to our world but a mirror for the world from which we can truly read so much from. 2010

    Zo Flamma-Hill

  7. 7 Jonathan Pearmain said at 3:01 pm on April 10th, 2010:

    Photography, when in the hands of someone with a revolutionary look and view of the world, is medium through which a uniquely minded person can share their way of thinking. Thus others can see the world in the new light, understanding other dimensions and oppinions better than if simply being ranted at by someone!

  8. 8 Huge Jorgans said at 3:10 pm on April 10th, 2010:

    For me the exhibition was ruined by the constant yakking of my companion…….and my dodgy knees

  9. 9 ian russell said at 2:18 pm on April 14th, 2010:

    There’s that hypothetical idea where you give an infinite number of typewriters to an infinite number of chimpanzees and eventually they’ll produce something equivalent to Shakespeare. Well, someone’s testing that hypothesis right now and they’re calling it Flickr.

    Joking aside, it is producing some promising results but what’s needed is a better way of separating the genius chimp from the other chimps. Or just find another Shakespeare amongst the human population.

    Photography is both powerful and facile. It’s up to us to separate it.

  10. 10 Tallulah Bret-Day said at 2:34 pm on April 14th, 2010:

    Yes- they most definitely can

  11. 11 Diana Matoso said at 3:41 am on April 21st, 2010:

    I always heard that an image can tell as many words as a book.
    Also a lot of people telling how a book changed their points of view.
    And being photography a captured image of reality, it must make us think.

    There is a photographer changing my perception of movement and depth, here’s an excerpt I wrote about his technique:

    a. Blurreal Photography is not a definitive or indisputable source of representation, but a challenge to the human mind. It aims to arouse people’s imagination by creating ambiguous visions rather than explanatory illustrations;
    b. It evokes a new perceptual experience of the world, proposing multiple subjective interpretations;
    c. By de-constructing reality and puzzling rationality, Blurreal hopes to challenge the Human mind and unfold a pathway for a new understanding of the world.