The Bigger Picture: Gender and the Visual Rhetoric of Conflict

TitleThe Bigger Picture: Gender and the Visual Rhetoric of Conflict
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsCampbell, Alex Westcott, and Charles Critcher
JournalJournalism Studies
Date Published02/2017

Employing a multiple method triangulation strategy and adapting Stuart Hall’s encoding/decoding model as a theoretical framework, this study used the World Press Photo Awards (WPPA) as a sample to empirically assess the extent to which gender influences the production, representation and reception of conflict images. The study examined whether women photojournalists are gaining increasing recognition, and gauged whether there are discernible gendered differences in the semiotics of conflict photographs. The image sample was then presented to focus groups in three countries to evaluate gendered decoding practices, followed by interviews with seven women WPPA winners to examine gender in relation to encoding practices, and their gendered experiences when photographing subjects in conflict zones. Findings suggest that the gradual increase in the numbers of women photographers may account for the shift toward “aftermath” imagery, but that a complex assimilatory process has wrought an intersection between traditionally “feminine” and “masculine” tropes. Women are still under-represented in photojournalism, and, while not wishing to be defined by gender, they have a sense of “doing things differently”; in gaining access unique to the world of women, women photographers have intimate access to subjects which would otherwise remain under-represented.

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