With so much divisiveness, mudslinging and negativity in politics these days, it’s easy to lose sight of what it’s all about: the leaders who inspire, the events that make us stop and think and the people who make a difference. At Getty Images, we believe it’s our responsibility to capture all these significant moments, people and events — not only to have a record of history, but to contribute to the evolution of society as a whole.

“It’s a privilege and challenge to capture these moments,” Getty Images VP Editorial Content Pancho Bernasconi said. “I think the biggest role of a photojournalist is to show the world back to itself. We send photographers all over the globe to capture what is happening. In the past 10 days we had photographers on both Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s planes, a photographer covering the Colombian guerillas before the peace treaty, which wasn’t signed, and another photographer covering the US border from the Pacific coast all the way to the Rio Grande.

“A fundamental aspect of what we do is to provide a snapshot of the world and share the full spectrum of what’s happening with a wider audience.”

Every year, certain photographs capture a moment that stuns the world. Images like the famous “Tank Man” from Tiananmen Square, or, more recently, the photo of Aylan Kurdi, the 3-year-old Syrian refugee who was lying lifeless on the shores of Turkey after drowning, have the ability to bring awareness to issues that are widely overlooked.

Protester Blocking Tanks Approaching Tiananmen Square
Credit: Bettmann


Credit: Nilufer Demir


But while these photos get people to pay attention, Bernasconi argues they themselves are not what perpetuates change, rather they act as a catalyst to it.

“It’s not the role of the photograph or photographer to be an agent of change, it’s to document what’s happening. It’s then the role of society to react to that photograph and decide on a course of action,” he said. “The power that the photographer has is to be present and channel all their knowledge, experience and emotion into framing the context of the image. The power of change comes in the ability to spark a conversation after the photograph is shared. The photographer doesn’t determine if a photograph is great, its society’s reflection on it that elevates a photograph and makes it part of the public discourse.”

Once the photo is out in the world, it is then that the real impact is made.

“I think everybody’s biases come through in both the way they view something and the way they internalize it. The truth of it is, photography is just 1/25 of a second of that truth—it’s just a snapshot of that moment,” Bernasconi said. “One of the powers of a still photograph is that there’s the moment that a photographer shoots and to that person it means something and then it gets sent out into the world and everybody adds their own perspective. A good photograph lives many lives. There’s the original purpose and then every other purpose that people attribute to it.”

The extraordinary thing about political imagery is the fact that these photographs not only initiate the conversations of today, but they will also have an impact on years to come.

“The moments captured in political photography live long after we’re gone. It’s the reason we have an archive. We can look at all those photos from 100 years ago and see how much they resonate today,” he said. “These photos help inform future generations what this country and this planet was doing at this exact moment in time. The work we do today becomes the archive of tomorrow.”


Explore the content from our In Search of Next video and discover the latest curated imagery from the 2016 US Presidential election at Getty Images