Protest in the Photo Essay

Following Tradition or Breaking New Ground?

Protest in the Photo Essay

Following Tradition or Breaking New Ground?

The photo essay, a form of visual journalism that arose during the era of the picture magazines, has reemerged as a regular feature of global news channels, including CNN, BBC World, and, notably, Al Jazeera English, recognized for its live reporting of political unrest. In 2017, a year marked by protest around the world, AJE published over 200 photo-series, including 37 on public protest. An analysis based in a four-year study of protest on screen, revealed that these photo essays share characteristics that in turn distinguish them from video broadcasts of public protests. The photo-reportage on screen, like its classic forerunner in print, employs a variety of visual perspectives and focuses on participants who are often quoted and identified by name. Scenes of public protest are complemented by visual and textual reporting from the private/domestic sphere. This visual strategy, in contrast to the immediacy of video coverage from the streets, supports knowledge of the protest issue and engagement with its participants.

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Images of protesters in the photo essay, linked to their own words, lend support to the legitimacy of their demands and their status as citizens, in ways news broadcasts of these events rarely achieve.
Reading time: 22 min.

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