Book Review of Heide Fehrenbach/Davide Rodogno, (eds.) “Humanitarian Photography”

Cross-posted from http://www.hsozkult.de/publicationreview/id/rezbuecher-24908

Katharina Stornig, Leibniz-Institut für Europäische Geschichte, Mainz: Review of Fehrenbach, Heide; Rodogno, Davide (Hrsg.): Humanitarian Photography. A History. Cambridge 2015.

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Although the history of humanitarianism has recently attracted great attention from historians and social scientists, surprisingly little work has so far been done on its visual dimensions. Yet there can be no doubt that images, visual technologies, and media practices were fundamental to the emergence and formation of a global humanitarian enterprise since the nineteenth century. The volume “Humanitarian Photography,” edited by Heide Fehrenbach and Davide Rodogno, thus constitutes an important and most welcome contribution to a flourishing field of research. Focusing on the mobilization of photography by humanitarian activists and organizations in the twentieth century, the volume gives compelling insights into the transnational production, reproduction, use, and function of photographs in various contexts of humanitarian activism. Pointing to the key role that photography played in the development of humanitarianism, it introduces a range of people, groups and organizations that conceived of photographs as essential means in order to aid far-off people, to raise funds or to create awareness of human suffering. Fehrenbach and Rodogno insist on the need to study humanitarian photography in a historical perspective. Consequently, their volume, which follows an interdisciplinary approach and consists of both new texts and reprints of important articles in the field, presents a chronology, according to which humanitarian photography emerged out of transnational missionary activity, expanded within various international organizations and eventually developed into a professional field that was ethically framed and regulated in the 1980s.

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Humanitarianism & the Media

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At St Antony’s College Oxford, the Richard von Weizsäcker fellow organizes a conference on humanitarianism and aid. The meeting takes place at the European Studies Centre, 70 Woodstock Road, on 19 -20 June 2015. It focuses on the media as an essential feature of the history of humanitarianism. Contributors discuss both the role of the media in humanitarian activities, and the imagery produced in print or on screen. Scholars from history, media studies, and anthropology present recent research with a view on the visual discourse, the meanings and materiality of the images since the beginning of the 20th century. Critically considering the medialisation of the humanitarian, they analyse the interaction between humanitarian agencies and media actors.

Speakers and topics:
(Detailed Programme Hum & Media 2015)

Johannes Paulmann (Oxford/ Mainz)
Introduction

I Humanitarian Imagery

Katharina Stornig (Mainz)
Promoting Distant Children in Need: Christian Imagery in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

Rose Holmes (Sussex)
‘Make the situation real to us without stressing the horrors’: Children, photography and British humanitarianism in the Spanish Civil War

Daniel Palmieri (ICRC, Geneva)
Humanitarianism on the Screen: The ICRC Films from the 1920’s to the 1960’s

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