Photographer Alessio Paduano was ready to capture the rescue of a man crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Europe, after receiving a distressed call from a boat off the coast of Tripoli. Paduano recounts the screams he heard coming from all around the ocean, as people desperately tried to stay afloat. The man who is the subject of Paduano’s powerful photo could barely keep his head above the surface, water interrupting his breaths, the sound of which remained with Paduano after the dramatic event. As a photojournalist, Paduano is required to remain witness to the scenes, regardless of the outcome, often going against his natural human reaction. Fortunately, the man was pulled to safety by the crew of Sea-Watch 3.
This image is one of many iconic photographs of events throughout the world. Other famous moments captured by the camera are the Dust Lady of 9/11, the Syrian child who was found dead on a Turkish beach during the migrant crisis of 2015 and Tank Man who has come to symbolise the events of Tiananmen Square in 1989. These images capture moments of hallmark events, providing a timeline of social history and are relatable to people globally, transcending language barriers.
Other photographers have struggled with their role as observer such as Kevin Carter, who famously committed suicide when he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for the guilt of not intervening when he took the picture simply called ‘The Vulture and the Little Girl’.
Humanities students, particularly English, History and Politics, should think about the power of the image to evoke and persuade. Whether it’s symbolising an event or for propaganda purposes, one should consider the role of the image for different purposes. English students should ponder the relationship between the image and the text, in journalism, in advertising and similar fields.