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About the Author

John Felix Peter Siivonen
Journalism Student (Helsinki, Finland)

I’m a 3rd year journalism student in Helsinki, working as an all-arounder: writing, photographing, illustrating. I’m curious, open-minded, increasingly becoming more and more interested in development, economy and social sciences.

Post

About facts – should we tell them or show them?

Published 27th March 2010 - 7 comments - 2487 views -

 

Nowhen talking about deforestation in Indonesia and its impacts on nature, economy and people, I could either give you the following facts…
"Indonesia is experiencing one of the highest rates of tropical forest loss in the world. Indonesia has lost an estimated 72 percent of its original forest."
"Deforestation in Indonesia is largely the result of a corrupt political and economic system that regarded natural resources, especially forests, as a source of revenue to be exploited for political ends and personal gain."
- Global Forest Watch
…or show you a picture taken by a Finnish photographer Heidi Piiroinen in Indonesia September 14th 2009
On Friday this shot was selected the Finnish Press Photo of the Year 2009.
It’s amazing how differently text and photograph makes you feel. You might read a long article or a book about something and learn all the facts and fill yourself with knowledge (I’m not saying this is bad) but then you see a photo that shows you the facts in one glance. 
It shows the devastating facts in a devastating form. I can’t think of a more powerful way to characterize the helplessness that the man in the photo must feel, balancing on a small piece of ugly soil surrounded by water and completely destroyed forest.
This is what’s really happening in Indonesia.
Now, facts matter (and that’s a fact) and fact is always a fact, but how many of the ones I gave you in the beginning of this post do you remember? 
Do you remember staring at the winner picture and having somewhat horrified feeling of perdition?
Next time someone asks me about the situation of the Indonesian forest, I’ll show this photo

Now, when talking about deforestation in Indonesia and its impacts on nature, economy and people, I could either give you the following facts…

"Indonesia is experiencing one of the highest rates of tropical forest loss in the world. Indonesia has lost an estimated 72 percent of its original forest."

"Deforestation in Indonesia is largely the result of a corrupt political and economic system that regarded natural resources, especially forests, as a source of revenue to be exploited for political ends and personal gain."

- Global Forest Watch

 

…or show you a picture taken by a Finnish photographer Heidi Piiroinen in Indonesia September 14th 2009

 

 

On Friday this shot was selected the Finnish Press Photo of the Year 2009.

It’s amazing how differently text and photograph makes you feel. You might read a long article or a book about something and learn all the facts and fill yourself with knowledge (I’m not saying this is bad) but then you see a photo that shows you the facts in one glance. 

It shows the devastating facts in a devastating form. I can’t think of a more powerful way to characterize the helplessness that the man in the photo must feel, balancing on a small piece of ugly soil surrounded by water and completely destroyed forest.

This is what’s really happening in Indonesia.

Now, facts matter (and that’s a fact) and fact is always a fact, but how many of the ones I gave you in the beginning of this post do you remember? Do you remember staring at the winner picture and having somewhat horrified feeling of perdition?

Next time someone asks me about the situation of the Indonesian forest, I’ll show this photo.

 

 


Category: Environment | Tags:


Comments

  • Larisa Rankovic on 27th March 2010:

    You are absolutely right regarding the strength of photography to tell the story - both in general and this one in particular


  • Robert Stefanicki on 27th March 2010:

    Sure, photographs attract attention much more than text, even very dramatic one, but without serious commentary the value of the photo is purely artistic. If you told me this picture (great, btw!) was taken in Finland after fire, I would believe.


  • John Felix Peter Siivonen on 27th March 2010:

    Robert, I agree that a photo without a story behind it is relying only on its artistic impression. But that first impression, sad, shivering or funny, is more likely lead you to eagerly find out the story behind the picture.

    When I saw this photo yesterday in television, I went straight to internet to read the story behind it.


  • Hieke van der Vaart on 27th March 2010:

    Hi John, I don’t think its a matter of “or”, but “and”. If you have the choice and the opportunity to show a picture, it is always better to do both. Or..?


  • Daniel on 27th March 2010:

    Really strong photo… I guess what makes photos so strong is also what is problematic about them. They give a feeling, and often a very clear statement, but they are also simplifications of reality. In a text you have another potential for nuances.


  • Hussam Hussein on 28th March 2010:

    Hey John!!! Nice to see you on here!:)
    Nice article, and nice photo! As you said, the photo it’s not enough, it needs a serious commentary as well. What you said reminds me what it has been said in Brussels during the conference: we have write about important and interesting thigs. The picture could help to make our article interesting! smile
    Btw, how do you attach a picture within the article? thanks


  • Helena Goldon on 11th August 2010:

    I feel I discovered this point so late…
    Good point you make, John, good tip for development journalists.


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