Photographic Truth-Claims

The Arab World uprisings were thoroughly documented and broadcasted on government sponsored media and opposition channels, including Facebook, Twitter, and other digital platforms. Photographs were often at odds with one another: pro-regime images depicted demonstrators as violent thugs or foreign agents disrupting civic order, while anti-regime protesters accused police forces of brutally attacking individuals who took part in demonstrations and sit-ins.

In such battles over truth, the photograph crafts an aesthetic of what is real—and therefore legitimate and worth fighting for. Images captured by snapshot photography serve as documentary evidence, made all the more “real” by their rough-and-tumble aesthetic. Citizen journalism became an act of rebellion against the state since it aims to circumvent state-imposed limits on speech and expression. Ordinary people overcame censorship by creating their own forms of knowledge: they acted as both producers and disseminators of images that triggered emotional responses, which in turn prompted public action.