The Photographic Representation of Refugees

University essay from Malmö högskola/Kultur och samhälle

Abstract: This thesis tries to shed light on the visual portrayal of refugees within German and the British newspapers during the European refugee crisis in 2016. Furthermore, a visual autoethnography of my own refugee photography complemented this study. Through the analysis of 80 newspaper photographs from Germany and Britain (quality press & tabloids), as well as nine of my own pictures, the following research questions had to be answered: Q1: How were refugees photographically represented in German newspapers (quality press & tabloids) during 2016? Q.2 How were refugees photographically represented in British newspapers (quality press & tabloids) during 2016? Q.3 How was I, as an amateur photographer, indirectly influenced in my own photographic portrayal of refugees by contemporary media. The analysis was conducted by coding all images into different visual categories, while observing reoccurring patterns and visual styles. Furthermore, the icnonographic-iconologic image framework was used for an in-depth review of certain newspaper images (each representing a different newspaper) and for two pictures of my own photography in an autoethnographic manner. The findings suggested that women and children were predominantly featured in both, German and British newspapers. German quality press focused on the representations of state control and on the integration of refugees. Furthermore, German tabloids did not refrain from very graphic imagery. British press featured a high number of pictures with women and children, while no representation of refugee integration could be found. Furthermore, the most notorious British tabloid seemed to portray a rather negative and partially criminal image of refugees. My own photography indicated a strong influence of commonly used refugee motifs. Thus, a subconscious reflection of international newspaper photography could be identified.

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