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Climate Visuals Interview


Principle: Show ‘real people’, not staged photo-ops

Working on Wind Turbine This photo of ‘experts at work’ shows an unusual perspective on wind turbines, and is likely to be seen as credible and authentic.

What it shows: two maintenance men work on a wind turbine in northern Poland near Kobylnica during the winter. Photo by Robert van Waarden / Cavan change visualisation. The idea of a research based image library, now with nearly nine hundred images, that’s based on communications guidance, is something that has piqued people’s interest in a good way, we have had a lot of positive reaction to it.

PL: Do you want to outline those key guidelines and give us a sense of what they are and why you felt that they were the ways that representation should move? AC: The seven principles that we came up with fell out of the research that we specifically did on imagery, but they also follow from a much longer process of research that’s happened around language and around communication on climate change more generally. Some of them are basic but are important I think, so: show people in images but don’t just show any old people, show real people doing actual stuff. Rather than people standing around and pointing at wind turbines and looking happy about it, show people benefiting from them or interacting with them. And if you are going to show people in emotionally charged climate impact situations, which are real, then show authentic, not contrived, not exaggerated, versions of those situations. And they’ve got to be emotionally sensitive as well, this situation has been happening for a much longer period of time around development and aid photography. It’s arguably not been happening much around climate change but the same ideas apply.

PL: Does political outlook make any difference to the way the pictures are seen? AC: Yeah, we found most of the images were received better by people on the left. People on the left generally cared more about climate change but there were a handful of images that we tested – things like a guy in his loft doing roof insulation, people getting on with practical responses to climate change – were actually preferred by people on the right than people on the left. So there’s

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