Consider the impact of a single photo to shape public opinion. Like this one from Vietnam War era. The photo shows a South Vietnamese general with a pistol pointed at what appears to be a civilian’s head. It was taken by AP photographer Eddie Adams. This photo was instrumental in fueling a huge anti-war sentiment. Fstoppers writes:
The power of an image can shape minds, change lives and alter political climates. The brutality of war is depicted no matter the context of “Saigon Execution.” But if the proper story was represented, would the image have had the impact it did? The story should continue beyond the grainy black and white exposure. According to Adams, photographs are half truths. With only half of the story publicly revealed, there grows an element of moral ambiguity in its propaganda. We continue to see this misuse of media today in the social realm.
Adams was quoted saying:
Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths. What the photograph didn’t say was, What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two, or three American soldiers?
And now with the convenience of nearly everyone having a cell phone on them all the time, video and still photos are readily accessible to anyone. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they are capturing the whole truth, or that the person capturing it is interested in relaying the whole truth. It’s only a snapshot in time and must be considered as such.
A photo does not always portray the whole truth, sometimes it’s the exact opposite!
We’d do well to keep that in mind the next time the Courtroom of Public Perception is called into session!
Adams said this to “Time” about that fateful photo:
“The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera.”