The Rhetorical Power of News Photographs: A Triangulatory Reception Approach to the Alan Kurdi Images

  • Jens E. Kjeldsen
  • Ida Andersen
Part of the Rhetoric, Politics and Society book series (RPS)


This chapter examines the power of news photographs through triangulating reception-oriented analyses of the photographs of the dead Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi, who was found drowned on a Turkish beach September 2, 2015. The images were immediately described as powerful and iconic. However, the analyses by Kjeldsen and Andersen demonstrate that their visual power is more complicated and complex than often assumed. The chapter also suggests that the power of the images can be divided into three temporal phases: (1) Evoking, exercising a power of emotional presence and immediacy; (2) Fading, being challenged, moving out of public agenda, and losing attention; and (3) Iconic renaissance, finally, because they are established and remembered as symbols for a specific event, people return to them when discussing this and similar events.



The authors would like to thank the students at the master course in visual rhetoric at the University of Bergen (Fall 2016) for their contribution in carrying out focus group conversations.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jens E. Kjeldsen
    • 1
  • Ida Andersen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Information Science and Media StudiesUniversity of BergenBergenNorway

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