Social Issues and the Image

This Manual is a practical guide to photography and filmmaking for NGO workers, citizen journalists and other individuals who want to use images in their work on social issues. The content of the Manual was compiled from the discussions, consultations and audio-visual material that emerged from “Social Issues and the Image”, a project undertaken by the Contemporary Image Collective (CIC). The project’s main component was a series of week-long workshops conducted in Assiut with local participants in the period between September 2013 and February 2014.

Access to the means of producing and disseminating images has increased dramatically in recent years. As a result, more people than ever before are now using cameras and publishing via academic, activist and social media. And while the political developments of recent years have invigorated a culture of inquiry and public debate, not all voices are heard. The work of trained professionals and mainstream media outlets continues to enjoy the most credibility and greatest impact, largely on account of its better-informed narrative and visual quality. The project was thus conceived with the goal of nurturing an environment where form amplifies the content of visual narratives instead of obscuring and discrediting it. Through the workshop, non-professional image makers whose work addresses and investigates social issues, explore visual languages and methodologies that go beyond their development- and NGO-image-making contexts. The project hopes that, through a more effective use of photography and video, narratives representing a broader geographic and thematic diversity would become more visible in the wider debate and among more mainstream discourse.

Because existent educational opportunities in the field of image-production are concentrated in Cairo, the workshops were conducted in Assiut as an attempt to promote the expansion of such opportunities beyond Cairo. In addition, this Manual was developed and is being made freely available online so that the instructional material can be available to interested individuals everywhere.

The Manual comprises theoretical and practical material drawn mostly from the proceedings of the workshops. This includes instructional content from expert photographers and film-makers on the technical aspects of image-making, along with the insights of photographers, activists, development professionals and social scientists around the ethical and editorial dimensions of producing visual narratives that investigate and document social issues. It also includes selections from the work produced by the workshop participants, in addition to iconic images and examples from influential image-makers.