There seems to be a general consensus that pictures play an important role when it comes to information. Certainly, whether it is “The New York Times”, “Newsweek Magazine” or “The Huffington Post” website, most means of communication give a significant space of their pages to images so that they can be used to support articles and stories. Also, they often become largely famous and are rewarded for being an outstanding piece of work. However, people generally divide their opinions on this topic. Whereas some consider photographs to be indispensable, others believe that they are neither accurate nor relevant to the story.
It is undeniable that an image can be considered the evidence of an event. Since cameras have the power of freezing the moment, photographs are arguably the proof that something happened. In addition, one might have extra information by seeing them, because they depict details that words sometimes do not reach, such as emotion and other senses of the context. Take the iconic picture in which a little girl runs with her bare body and open arms after her village has been bombed, for instance. All despair, sadness and cruelty of the Vietnam War are there. Furthermore, when well executed, a photograph becomes a work of art as well, which was the case of this image that has also won the Pulitzer Prize.
On the other hand, the frozen moment does not show exactly the whole situation. It actually portrays part of it, as it is impossible for the camera to capture everything that is happening or every angle of a particular scene. Therefore, the result conveys only one point of view, which is likely related to the photographer’s subjectivity. This is how bad intended people manipulate reactions, for example. When combined with caption, titles and statements, a photo can easily lead to misinterpretation of facts, so the true moment remains unrevealed. Mass media does that all the time, especially on the cover of newspapers and magazines. Although words are at times insufficient to express feelings, the usage of images is likewise inappropriate. In some cases, privacy is invaded and permission for publishing personal images are not even asked. This brings up the issue of sensationalism over information, as well as questions regarding Ethics.
Despite my strong interest in photography, I believe that articles and stories are capable of sustaining themselves without pictures. There are magazines like the American “The New Yorker” or the Brazilian “Piauí” which prioritize the text rather than image, and the quality of information is even higher than in other vehicles. In my opinion, if both - texts and photographs - were worked separately, they would do fine, and if somebody quoted the famous line “a picture is worth a thousand words”, I would make sure to add “to some extent.”