3: Visual Storytelling and the Global Imagination (Representation)

Download the pdf of class material here



In this week, we’ll discuss media representation, and how it affects the public understanding of place. You’ll need to prepare for the theory seminars by doing the preparatory readings here.

To get started please watch the TED talk video mentioned directly below in one of the main readings — “The Danger of a Single Story.”

For Chinese subtitles view on this link.


Read DJ Clark’s research on UK media’s representation of the Majority World, and the audiences’ imagined geographies of place. Pay special attention to the conclusions of different studies reviewed in this section of the paper. (PLEASE NOTE READ ONLY p.10-18, p.32-41)

Read David Campbell’s essay on visualising Africa. Although “African Lens,” the project mentioned in the essay, hasn’t been updated for a while, the guidelines Campbell provides on what visual storytellers need to do to go beyond the simplistic and superficial representation of Africa are still applicable. We will discuss how these guidelines may also apply to visualising China.

Check out @everydayafrica on Instagram as a recent and successful endeavour to visualize Africa in a balanced and nuanced way.

*Note @everydayafrica also are collaborating on a new  African Photojournalism Database on Blink, a real-time location platform connecting freelancers to media companies that want to tell stories.

Read Teju Cole’s critique on Steve McCurry’s work on India incited a heated discussion on how to (and not to) represent a culture as a photographer coming from the outside.

Read this insightful conversation with Christopher Anderson. It covers so many aspects of the ongoing transformation of photojournalism, points which we’ll keep coming back to throughout the term. For this week, pay special attention to what Anderson said about fact, truth, objectivity and subjectivity in photography.

Be sure to come to class prepared to discuss the readings. This is a seminar, not a lecture and all students will be expected to participate. You’re more than welcome to find examples of good (or bad) visual representations of places in the media, and more importantly, I would like to hear your critique on the work. Last but not least, think how you can avoid stereotypes as a journalist in your future practices.


Additional readings:

1. @EverydayAfrica’s crowdfunding campaign


2. Some other examples of visual representations that challenge stereotypes of a place or a group of people.

Zhang Lijie – Cici

Tanya Habjouqa – Occupied Pleasures

Robin Hammond/NatGeo – the New Europeans