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Children in the visual coverage of the European refugee crisis: A case study of the World Press Photo 2016

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Shifts in the visual coverage of refugees arriving in Europe and prominent compassion fatigue emphasize the need to examine visual strategies utilized to report on the crisis. This study focuses on representations of refugee children using a case of the World Press Photo (WPP) 2016. The material was interpreted with a model for visual rhetorical interpretation of journalistic photographs. Findings indicate the main visual elements involved in representing refugee children: visual trope of the migrant father, relation between children and barriers, visual oxymoron (juxtaposition of contradictory elements) and atmosphere in photographs. Findings suggest that photographs address polemics specific to the European refugee crisis. Specifically, we found that showing children in photographs can elicit compassion for children as well as accompanying (male) adults, legitimize the act of crossing borders, and define the ‘crisis’ as the situation and not as the refugees themselves.
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Keywords: World Press Photo 2016; child migrant; compassion fatigue; photography interpretation; refugee; visual rhetoric

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Jyväskylä 2: Erasmus University Rotterdam

Publication date: March 1, 2018

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