The iconic image in a digital age: Editorial mediations over the Alan Kurdi photographs

Mette Mortensen, Stuart Allan, Chris Peters

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
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This article investigates selected newspapers’ editorial mediations over contrasting perceptions regarding the significance of a controversial set of “iconic” news photographs, namely images of Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian refugee, whose drowned corpse washed ashore in September, 2015. Specifically, this study examined individual editorial items, published by leading Danish, Canadian and British newspapers over a four-month period, engaging with and reflecting upon this imagery. Our analysis revealed several key deliberative features of editorial self-reflexivity, with three especially salient themes shown to be emergent across the coverage: a) instantaneousness and historical photographic precedents; b) social media’s perceived influence on photojournalism; and c) normative associations of affective qualities for this imagery. By elucidating these features of editorial self-reflexivity within a convergent digital media ecology, this article offers original insights into how and why the epistemic values governing visual communication are being reconsidered and redrawn under pressure from institutional imperatives.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNordicom Review
Issue numberSpecial Issue 2
Pages (from-to)71-86
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


  • Alan Kurdi
  • editorials
  • iconic images
  • photojournalism
  • refugee crisis
  • social media


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