It was the power of a single image, writ large. A picture’s worth a thousand words? More like millions. The recent photograph of drowned three-year-old Syrian Aylan Kurdi lying face down on the beach came after months of news reports about other drownings, including of children, in the Mediterranean and the ever-growing toll of the Syrian civil war. Yet none of those previous reports ‘cut through’ in the way that the picture of Aylan did.
And of course it’s not the first time this has happened. The picture of a terrified, naked girl, later identified as Kim Phuc, in Vietnam in 1972 is credited with shifting the world’s response to the war in that country. And there have been numerous other examples of iconic, opinion-changing images going back through history.
It makes you wonder. Why write at all? Why not just tell our stories with pictures? Imagine the effort that could be saved. All that ploughing through writer’s block, all that tedious editing.