Getty Images founder talks about the power of pictures

Speaking during the Cannes Lions festival earlier this year, Getty Images founder Jonathan Klein uses a series of iconic images to illustrate the intrinsic potential of an image to move the viewer.

Klein starts his speech by showing the audience a picture of Princess Diana holding an AIDS orphan at a time when people still believed that the disease could be spread through touch.

“For the most famous woman in the world to be hugging an HIV-postive, AIDS baby did more to de-stigmatise the disease [and]educate people on what it was really about than 10,000 articles by learned academics in the New England Journal of Medicine or whatever it might be,” he says.                

From this point goes on to discuss the utility of imagery in relaying concepts or feelings, whether for the purposes of advertising or journalism, to the audience. 

Nowhere, he argues, is this point more viscerally evident than in the poignant image of woman crying over the grave of a loved one. 

“We see so many images of war and tragedy all the time and those images are typically full of blood and guts and in the moment ‘Bang Bang Club’ shots … I asked John Moore why he took this picture, and he said: ‘After all the tense moments in places of conflict and the blood and guts in every conflict zone in the world, this one photograph, from a much quieter place, haunts me more than any other’.”

After this, Klein shifts the discussion to series of image from Beirut that evoked controversy throughout the world for appearing to have been staged, before moving onto an image shot in Liberia of shirtless soldier running along a bridge.

And while much of his early discussion is attributed to professional photographers plying their trade throughout the world, he also spares several minutes to talk about the the role amateur photographers are playing in the continued evolution of Getty Images through initiatives such as iStock.

In conclusion, Klein briefly touches on the #RePicture initiative that has been launched to eradicate the cliché, and thereby deliver messages—in terms of branding, journalism or story-telling—that typify modern sensibilities.

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