The Conversation: People, Power and Photography

Critic Susan Sontag famously argued that “without photographs, there is no war”. With smartphones and the internet so readily accessible, photography has become a democratic way to hold power to account, ignite change and raise awareness. Photographs have tremendous power, serving as witness to atrocity, injustice and shared humanity. In 2020 alone, Darnella Frazier sparked public outrage and ongoing mass protests by bearing witness to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police Department officers. Horrifying images of bushfires led to an outpouring of support. Amateur photos of coronavirus patients and empty toilet paper shelves made the pandemic real. Citizen witnesses kept Black Lives Matter protesters safe.

Watch Dr Cherine Fahd, Professor Jane Lydon and Dr Chris Salisbury as they discuss how a photo can change the world. Chaired by Michael Lund from The Conversation, live-streamed on 19 November 2020.

Presented by State Library of Queensland and The Conversation, the world's leading free, fact-based news source written by academics and edited by journalists.


Dr Cherine Fahd is an academic and artist working in the field of photography and video performance. Cherine’s recent work focuses on the role of the camera in creating intimacy and social relationships. She is Director of the Photography Program in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at UTS.

Professor Jane Lydon is the Wesfarmers Chair of Australian History at The University of Western Australia. Her research centres upon Australia’s colonial past and its legacies in the present. In particular, she is concerned with the history of Australia’s engagement with anti-slavery, humanitarianism, and ultimately human rights.

Dr Chris Salisbury is a political historian and researcher in the School of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Queensland. He specialises in Queensland’s contemporary politics and electoral history. He also teaches at the University in Australian history.

Michael Lund is Commissioning Editor at The Conversation. Michael has been a journalist for many years and worked for the BBC, ABC and more recently as a feature writer for The Courier-Mail

Download the video transcript