The Challenges of Global Photography

How do photography’s close ties with global corporations and institutions affect the kinds of images that are seen and/or how they are made?

Do you think the global nature of photography diversifies the kind of photography that is seen, or homogenises it?

Do you think that there is indeed such a concept of ‘universalism’, given the diversity of cultures? How does photography ‘impose’ such ideas?

Global corporations and institutions choose specific types of images in order to fulfil a particular type of corporate strategy. In 1989 the Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani was involved in a controversial advertising campaign for Benetton Group, Vittoria Rava – Benetton’s Advertising manager commented: “We believe our advertising needs to shock – otherwise people will not remember it.” (Graham as cited in Ramamurthy, A., 2015, p. 285).

Global imagery arises from people’s desire to document, in a visual form, the world around them. There is a common interest in the human condition which is not bound by but instead accommodates cultural diversity – whilst the subject may change from region to region the wish to record our lives and our environment remains constant. This common interest has been referred to as “universalism”. Barthes in his 1973 book ‘Mythologies’ argued that such a universal requirement is no more than “ambiguous myth” but, undeniably, there exists a wish, observable repeatedly on a global scale, to capture specific types of images. This wish is being fulfilled by photographers on both professional and non-professional levels.

Billions of images are now exchanged in an hour. This could lead us to ask if we are desensitised to events around us through overexposure as a result of the sheer volume of images that are generated? It could be argued that the sheer volume of images has a homogenising effect on the various types of photography resulting in grey areas where one type of photography has undefined boundaries with another, indeed, as Price suggests: “documentary is often associated with other kinds of photography, especially those of war, travel, and photojournalism. There are often no clear lines of demarcation between these genres, nor is it possible to find exclusive descriptions of them (Price 2015, p. 77.


Price, Derrick., 2015, “Surveyors and surveyed” in Liz WELLS (ed.) Photography: A Critical Introduction, London: Routledge, p. 77.

Ramamurthy, A., 2015, “Spectacles and illusions” in Liz WELLS (ed.) Photography: A Critical Introduction, London: Routledge, p. 285.