What Impact Does Photography Have on Society?


Photography has impacted society by allowing people to see others whom they would never have an opportunity to see otherwise. This includes presidents, politicians, celebrities and people from foreign countries. The advent of photography changed citizen voting behavior. Photography is also largely responsible for the modern-day concept of celebrity. Before the invention of photography, it was impossible for one person to have millions of fans and followers worldwide.

Images have the ability to alter our perceptions. In 2003, Princeton psychologist Alexander Todorov tested the ability of photographs to affect voting decisions. Participants were asked to determine the election outcomes for the House of Representatives based on photographs alone. The participants were accurate in determining the winners and losers up to 73 percent of the time. Although most voters say that they are looking for a competent and intelligent representative, their voting behaviors are largely determined by the attractiveness of politicians’ photographs. Before the advent of photography in the 1830s, many voters based their decisions on campaign issues that were discussed in newspapers and brochures.

Images also affect our opinions on other serious matters, such as war and crime. The first photo series to document war was Mathew Brady’s exhibition “The Dead of Antietam.” For the first time in history, citizens were able to view the aftermath of a bloody battle. The exhibition generated a lot of controversy and discussion.