The “Global Image”

I found the task quite challenging. To select one image that to me represents the theme of “the global image” was not an easy undertaking.

This seemed to pose more questions than it created answers.

Firstly, what is a “global image”?

Could it be an image deliberately created by a large corporation or institute with the specific aim of fulfilling a particular corporate strategy? Images which lack aesthetic appeal but which are instantly recognisable, arguably, the kind of images used by corporate giants such as Coca-Cola and McDonalds in the advertising campaigns.

Alternatively, could it be the kind of image that arises from people’s desire to document, in a visual form, the world around them. Certainly 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.

Perhaps a “global image” could be defined as the kind of image that shocks us, that stops us from “focusing” on the mundane routine of life and forces us to take stock of events unfolding in other areas of the world.

I finally decided on the following image which falls into the latter category.

In 1972, Nick Ut was a photographer working for Associated Press in Vietnam. His photograph of Phan Thị Kim Phúc badly burnt by napalm and fleeing from her smoldering village has become one of the twentieth century’s iconic images.


Nick Ut, 1972. The Terror of War

Does the fact that I found it hard to identify one specific image to represent the “global image” suggest that the sheer volume of images that are now produced has desensitised us? Are we oversaturated with images?