Photo Narratives

Apr 4th, 2012 | By | Category: Pakistan Today, The News

“A picture is worth a thousand words”, says the old saying. Indeed, since the introduction of photography, images have proven to be a powerful tool for shaping our beliefs and attitudes. On the barsi of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who can deny the power that this photo commands even today, 33 years after his death.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto court

But it was not photos of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto that caught our attention this morning, but photos of his grandson, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari as they appeared in the media.

The banner of Pakistan Today carried a photo of Bilawal to accompany a story about his seeking an apology from the Supreme Court for its role in his grandfather’s death. And what image did the photo editor at Pakistan Today select for this occasion? A picture of the PPP chairman smiling and dressed in a tuxedo.

Pakistan Today Banner 4th April 2012

This photo was actually snapped three years ago at the Women’s World Awards where a young Bilawal was attending to present the ‘Benazir Bhutto World Tolerance Award’.

Compare this to the photo published by The News (Jang Group).

Bilawal and President Zardari at ZAB's grave

Unlike the photo published in the banner of Pakistan Today, this image was snapped on Tuesday as Bilawal showered flowers on the grave of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

In one photo, Bilawal appears laughing and wearing a tuxedo suit. In the other photo, he has a serious look and is wearing a simple salwar kameez. One is from an awards gala, the other is from a visit to his grandfather’s grave.

It is very unlikely that any newspaper would publish a photo of Bilawal wearing simple clothes and looking somber next to a story about an international awards event, so why did Pakistan Today publish the photo of Bilawal wearing a tuxedo and laughing along with a story about the Supreme Court’s role in his grandfather’s death?

Whether or not it was an intentional effort to shape the public perception of Bilawal, obviously only the editors at Pakistan Today can know the reason they chose to put a smiling photo of Bilawal in a tuxedo with a photo about the Supreme Court’s role in his grandfather’s death. But as media consumers, we should be take careful notice of the ways that our attitudes and beliefs can be shaped by even the simplest thing as a picture.

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