Images tell stories.
The other day, I was watching Tracks, a film about a woman who walked 1,700 miles across the Australian Desert with three camels and her dog. The film is based on the true story of Robyn Davidson, who underwent this trip in 1977. National Geographic offered funding for her trip in exchange for her story. So, a photographer by the name of Rick Smolan was assigned to meet her at several points during her journey to photograph her trip for the magazine.
The photos Rick took spurred a lot of interest. Robyn went on to write a book that has sold millions of copies and is a required read in some Australian schools. Watching the movie got me thinking, without the photographer that was assigned to Robyn’s trip, the story would never have reached so many people. In this instance, the images helped change the course of someone’s life.
Visual storytelling predates back to Paleolithic cave paintings. Cavemen drew on rocks to tell their stories. The Ancient Egyptians used pictographic characters in the form of hieroglyphics that lined their temples and tombs with messages.
These images grabbed our attention and helped us understand history, time and time again. Visual storytelling has left an impact on people.
As history has evolved, so has the way we tell our stories. The invention of the camera, the Internet, cell phones, and social media has changed and evolved our storytelling techniques.
Now, everyone posts images they take on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and so on. Though we may not think about it in the moment, every photo we post and every image tells a certain story. When scrolling through Instagram, you stop at the image that you found to be visually appealing in the sea of content.
As the world has been captivated by social media, brands use images for their own narrative. Visual content is used in all types of business ventures from marketing campaigns, PR pitching, digital media and so on.
A picture can stir up political upheaval or it can sell your product. How we use it depends on the person and the purpose behind the image.
Let’s look at the example of an online news article. You cannot guarantee that someone will read an article from start to finish. The chances of someone both scrolling through the site and seeing the image associated with the article are highly likely. So much so, that the image could be the reason the individual scrolling has clicked on the article to begin with. The pictures almost always get noticed. You can’t help it; they stare you right in the face.
If you were to just Google “the power of images”, you’ll find that this topic has thousands of books written about it, hundreds of academic publications and various other online articles.
This blog is just the tip of the iceberg on the topic. If you can take anything away from this blog, it’s this: do not underestimate the importance of visuals.