A picture tells a thousand words

Richard Branson as a student
Image by Virgin.com
Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 18 June 2015

Words have an incredible power to move us; however it is often only through pictures that we can truly understand the real story. Shocked and saddened to see these images, which have recently come out of Syria, where a refugee crisis of epic proportions is currently unfolding. They are a stark reminder of the power of photography in storytelling.

Storytelling has long been a great passion of mine. Effective storytelling can change the world. It was for this reason that I first went into business with Student magazine – a voice for young activists – at 16 years old. 

Alongside stories about music and popular culture, we used the magazine as a vehicle to protest against the Vietnam and Biafran wars.

Cover of the Student magazine from Autumn 1969 with picture of wounded children from the Biafran war
Image by Virgin.com

Student had a team of great writers, creating wonderful and punchy pieces of journalism, but when it came to articles about war and conflict we knew imagery was the only way to tell the hard-hitting truth. 

Enlisting the help of British photographer Don McCullin – who has since been labelled the world’s greatest living war photographer – we were able to really convey the shocking reality of war.

Image of a Student Magazine article entitled Biafra is dying on it's feet
Image by Virgin.com
Double page spread from Student Magazine on Biafran Affair
Image by Virgin.com

I viewed, and still view, Don as a hero. War photographers jeopardise their safety in order to shed light on the world’s most awful tragedies. Who can forget the iconic Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Phan Thị Kim Phúc, ‘Napalm Girl’, taken during the Vietnam War in Trảng Bàng by AP photographer Nick Ut. The image awoke the world to the destruction and heartbreak of the war, and has been burned into the eyes of those old enough to remember it.

Black and white photo of a Biafra recruit training with a stick whilst sat on the ground
Image by Virgin.com
A photo of an article in Student magazine about Vietnam
Image by Virgin.com

As technology advances, we are all becoming photographers in our own right; however the role of photojournalists is still so paramount to truly understanding the world and humanity.