photography in the pursuit of public health

Photographic image has long been used in journalism to document events and circumstances, attract attention and stimulate debate and action. This in itself implies that photography can help change the social and political climate, which in turn can have a strong influence on public health. If photography is also an “art” form, with all the expressive and interpretative subtlety associated with that label, it has been a more controversial topic.

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Whatever the real reasons the Victoria and Albert Museum in London opened the Canon Photographic Gallery in 1998, this development by the art establishment was seen as “any further debate on the validity of art” was seen as lacking. of meaning. photography as art “.
The consideration of whether photography is art or not is relevant in this discussion due to the growing recognition of the value of art in public health and health promotion. Art is seen as an important and effective means to engage people in health promoting activities and to mediate between the experience of everyday life and scientifically based knowledge of what affects health, so that people are ” touched rather than indoctrinated “by health messages. In the direction the debate on photography and art is taking, experience has shown that photography has a valuable role to play in community health and development. Moreover, its use is not limited to people with professional knowledge and skills. Individuals and groups can use the medium to express their health-related needs and views and there are a growing number of examples of this application of photography.3 4

Raise awareness of various health influences
The WHO Health for All strategy is based on the recognition that health is influenced by many factors.5 6 Indeed, almost all aspects of life influence health. The growing concern for the global environment through Agenda 21 has also focused attention on the relationships between society, environment and health.7 Raising awareness of these many and complex health influences is therefore one of the most important functions of public health . In all societies, there are many people whose jobs and responsibilities, while not explicitly labeled as “health”, can nevertheless affect the health of large numbers of people in ways that are at least as powerful as activities. of formal health. sector. Photographic images can help bring about greater awareness and understanding of this, both through the direct representation of physical and environmental threats and the actions taken to alleviate them, and through more subtle images of social relationships and activities and historical influences. 8 (Figures 2-5).

Photographs can convey the extraordinary variety and depth of factors that affect health and inspire all of us to consider ways we can work to improve health. An image may be worth a thousand words, but those words will depend on the context in which the image is viewed and the experience of the viewer. Although some images are powerful enough to stand on their own, 9 more often photographs will be part of a story in which aspirations, settings, action and experience must be documented, context defined, and implications for health debate. The process of finding the desired images to express these complex interrelationships is important and formative for those involved.

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