The Barnardo's Babies: Performativity, Shame and the Photograph
Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences
School of Communications and Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts,Technology, Education and Communications
This article explores the everyday by considering how certain media images in Barnardo's recent advertising campaigns in the U.K. have ‘cut through’ the daily ‘media clutter’ to cause extensive public protest and discussion. Drawing on Eve K. Sedgwick's and Silvan Tomkins' work on affect as embodied in everyday experience, as well as J. L. Austin's speech act theory, I argue for sustaining investment in, if not the photograph's truth status, then in its capacity to draw attention to public rationalisations for (mass) suffering. Specifically, I discuss how the ordinary (everyday) slippage between indexical and iconic aspects of any photograph enables organisations, such as charities or even governments, to deploy the shame affect to sustain or extend divisions between people, as well as its own ‘established power’. The final section considers these ideas in relation to an Australian example, the ‘children overboard’ photographs in 2001 which instigated a public scandal.