Photography, its Impact on Society and Culture

Posted: November 28th, 2013

Photography, its Impact on Society and Culture




September 23, 2011

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Photography, its Impact on Society and Culture

Since the invention of photography in the 19th century, it has evolved a long way to the current digital camera technology. In addition to its evolution, it has had quite an impact on the society as well as in a political aspect. It has been used as the visual documenting of events and keeps them fresh just as they were taken rather than relying on the memory of a person, which might fail at any given time. Some of the cultural and social aspects of photography are memory, history, employment, art, and science. Politically, it has had an impact on several aspects such as campaigning. The impact of photography has been raising reactions from people concerning what they see in the photos that are regarded as evidence (Walsh, 2000).

Cultural and Political Aspects of Photography

There are many cultural aspects of photography today, where people learn about other cultures through photos taken of them. Today, many people study other cultures through taking photographs of people in their cultural habitat such as in their traditional attire. More so, photos are used to show cultural activities such as rituals and economic activities taken in their daily activities. Such photographs play an important role in passing cultural norms from one generation to the other through referencing from the pictures. Other cultural aspects of photography are passing down the cultural heritage and norms of a particular culture such as how they were organized (Warner, 2006).

Politically, photos have been used to record political activities such as campaign rallies, inaugurations, and political activists in their work. Lately people have been following keenly on politics where photo of political issues are taken everyday by photographers to document what is going on such as in political summits, meetings and other related events. Every day in papers, there are photos of political leaders activist groups and political parties. Mostly, the photos tell stories of what is happening currently in the society as well as the whole world, which are used as evidence and confirmation that such events occurred considering the photos tell the truth.

Impacts of Photography

In terms of memory, photography changed the way people remember information and events. It brings an instant memory since it captures images of events as they are seen by the real eye. Photos depict real events happening somewhere in their real image at the particular moment hence providing an instant visual storage of a moment for future reminisce. Looking at photos, people are able to confirm their memories of past times in their real image. Another aspect of photography that has affected the society and culture is history. Photographs provide record of historical events such as keeping record of wars that happened in the past hence providing a confirmation that it really happened (Wells, 2004). Events that have occurred after invention of photography are well documented and one only needs to look at photos to see the real images of such events. Until in the recent past due to digital technology, people have believed that pictures do not lie, hence anybody looking at a photo knows that it is the truth. Today, due to emergence of technology such as Adobe Photoshop, people are able to manipulate pictures to suit what they want, sometimes raising many controversies.

Furthermore, photography has influenced socially on the lives of many economically. After invention of photography, very few rich people owned cameras. Today, anybody who is interested in taking pictures can have access to a camera even from a cell phone enabled with a camera. Many people are employed as photojournalists who make a living through taking photos for other companies such as broadcasting corporations, magazines and papers as well as taking photos of people for a fee in areas they would love to have photos. More so, after the cameras were in produced in plenty, there was a need to have salespersons and some in the factories of cameras. Photography has also led to innovations in science where photos are used in studying items such as human body, in research to during field trips and even in geography where scientists have taken pictures of the earth from space. In addition, the photos have changed the meaning of art, where drawing of portraits was considered the visual documentation of information that took time to draw. People who wanted to have portraits of their images had to go to artists to have their portraits drawn, while a photo, that is accurate in showing the real image only takes a moment. This changed arts from drawing of portraits to taking photos since it was simpler and accurate.

The impact of such photos is seen all over the world and the society where they raise certain reactions from the people. Many pictures photos have been used as evidence of some activities taking place where they are considered hard evidence against people in many occasions such as courts of law to prove that something really happened. The photos could bee used to show what really happens that people may not be aware. For instance, if an event happens in private and somebody happens to take photos it would be considered a proof that such an activity happened. In another instance, if people saw what happened in certain occasions such as war, probably where some a group of people are involved, it could evoke another war in reiteration where the particular group decides to rise against such acts (Linfield, 2010). The reaction could also be different where the group would take other measures to combat the situation and prevent such occasion. When people want to raise a topic, be it political, cultural or social, photos could be used to show why it would be necessary to take an action such as intervening measures. Pictures provide information to others of events and occurrences such as natural calamities. For instance, in the earthquake that hit Haiti, is was only through photos that people reacted through helping. Days before photos, only messages could be sent and there would be no visual proof showing the real images of such occurrences, and hardly would people react.


One of the major impacts of photography that is evident in all aspects is their ability to pass information from one person to another through documenting such information visually (Wright, 2004). People are ale to visualize the real experience that was experience during the time photos were taken. Photos have managed to keep memories of past events and moments fresh in people through looking at them since they cannot be erased like our memories or the way people can forget.



Walsh, D. (2000). Walker Evans and photography. Retrieved from

Linfield, S. (2010). The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Walsh, D. (2000). Walker Evans and photography. Retrieved from

Warner, M. M. (2006). Photography: A cultural history. London: Laurence King.

Wells, L. (2004). Photography: a critical introduction. New York NY: Routledge.

Wright, T. (2004). The photography handbook. New York: Routledge

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