This research investigates the use of family photographs in British national newspapers from 1986 (when the first colour daily newspaper appeared) to the present. Through discussion of a small number of case studies, the research aims to analyse the way in which the media use images, and to document the shift in meaning that surfaces when a private family photograph becomes read within the public realm. The focus of research is the use of private family photographs of victims of murder or disaster. Generally, these are distressing cases, with difficult subject matter, and the images associated with them have become iconic in public awareness.
The case studies that have been identified all involve victims who have been murdered, or have died as a result of a disaster. Selection was on the basis of the themes that are explored within the research, for example, public and private grief. Some are ongoing, unsolved murders.
Research began by considering the use of private photographic images within the news domain. In particular, the criteria for selection of images are considered; this includes, for example, gender, age and class. The researcher intends to develop a typology of the use of photographs based on the kind of image used, how it is used, and how it relates to both captions and accompanying text. An archive of news articles that make use of these images will be grouped thematically, in terms of genres of photographs, for example, school photographs, family photographs, professional or amateur. From this archive a taxonomy of use and type of images will be developed.
The research will result in a body of creative work that will reflect and represent the processes documented. One major outcome will be an exhibition. This will be based on the text accompanying the images rather than the images themselves.
The project is presently a work in progress, and part of the practice process is finding an ethical solution to the use of these images.