Band Aid 20. Live 8. Make Poverty History. The G8 Summit inGleneagles. 2005 is witnessing renewed debate about globalpoverty, disasters and development, especially in Africa.Coming two decades after the Ethiopian famine of the mid-1980s the time is ripe for a reconsideration of the power andpurpose of disaster pictures, given the way the images of theEthiopian famine spawned the original Band Aid/Live Aidphenomenon.The October 1984 BBC television report from Korem (filmed byMohamed Amin and reported by Michael Buerk) is renownedfor having drawn the world’s attention to the famine in Ethiopia.While it was not the first report of the issue, it is undoubtedlythe most famous. Its eight minutes of searing images movednews professionals and the public alike.This response was notuniversal — “not more starving Africans”, was the reaction of one network producer. However, another producer identifiedwhat gave the report its power, saying, “it was as if each clipwas an award-winning still photo”. As a result, some 425television stations around the world ran the report, reachinghundreds of millions of people.The media coverage of the Ethiopian famine was a watershedfor how aid agencies thought about images of disaster . TheFood and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nationsundertook an international study of the campaigns andcoverage (called Images of Africa) to see their effects on theEuropean public’s perception of Africa. Out of this came newcodes of practice for the use of pictures by non-governmentalorganisations (NGOs). Since then, reflections on the politics of photographic practice with regard to famine have been scantand the persistence of stereotypical images all too evident. Asa result, part of the Live Aid legacy has been the equation of famine with Africa and Africa with famine, reducing a continentof 57 countries, nearly 900 million people and numerousdisparate cultures to a single, impoverished place.
Mohamed Amin and Michael Buerk, Ethiopia, 1984 Camerapix