Images possess the undeniable power to potentially focus minds. Few will be able to forget the sight of the lifeless body of 3-year-old Syrian refugee, Aylan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkish beach in September 2015, or that of the Vietnamese ‘Napalm Girl’ [Kim Phuc – now 52-years-old and still undergoing treatment for the horrific injuries she sustained in 1972], or that of the solitary figure that stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, during the 1989 student demonstrations.
This weekend another extraordinary image emerged from a Black Lives Matter protest in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; the epitome of grace under pressure.
And amidst the chaotic turmoil – following further black deaths at the hands of the police and the police themselves in Dallas – the value of such imagery can never be underestimated. And with them, the hope that in the focusing of minds, things can change.
At the weekend I took my own image during the Bristol Pride march and wrote my own thoughts on my Instagram feed under the heading All Lives Matter:
“… the event itself felt … timely … healing. Whether you’re part of the LGBT community, black [especially in America right now], an immigrant [especially in the post-Brexit UK right now], or a refugee, or you suffer with mental health, or even if you’re a traumatised England football supporter [or maybe that should be ‘sufferer’, too, like me] we’ve all felt doubt, fear and persecution served in a soup of misrepresentation and lack of understanding, uh, drizzled with ignorance. There will always be extremes of views, and it’s a sad fact that most of these extremes are invariably attached to the loudest, foghorn voices. But if there’s a crumb of comfort amidst any form of social chaos, maybe it’s that sometimes the quieter voices begin to be heard and the quietly complacent are less likely to keep sitting on their hands. We all have our individual lives but we will all ultimately stand or fall together.”
We live in a time where both still and video imagery are within relatively easy reach and can be immediately shared via social media; and despite the irritation often associated with their overwhelming saturation it can no longer be denied we now have the potential to inform, educate and shape debate and focus collective minds like never before.
Here are a few additional thoughts generated from Followers as a result of my Instagram post:
Ena: “I believe that respect is something that we should teach children as well as ourselves – on daily basis, critical thinking and accepting our differences, zero tolerance to all kinds of violence… It sounds Utopian but peace, freedom and equal rights to all is something I would love to see during my lifetime.”
Jeff: “One day kids will say what was a pride march? They will be amused by racist stupidity (as their electronic DNA id will show 12 to 25 different nationalities). People are never more equal and accepting than when they are very young. Bigotry and hatred are learned behaviors and sadly undoing the teachings is almost impossible!”
Patrick: “Respect for all should be our battle. Battle of words and act of kindness towards the others . We are all different. This is our strength.”
Finally, in a sense that all our future hopes will be carried on the shoulders of the young and generations to come, I was incredibly moved to see another moment captured in the aftermath of the Euro 2016 final when this apparently inconsolable French fan was lifted from his own private torment: BBC clip