Engaging media gatekeepers to catalyse a new visual language for climate change
Understanding of the role that images play in communication about climate change is very limited. Through their KR Foundation-funded project ‘Climate Visuals’, the leading climate communications organisation in Europe, Climate Outreach, has previously showed that climate change has an ‘image problem’. As their pioneering Climate Visuals analyses have demonstrated there is, among other things, an absence of people-centred imagery in the visual content communicated by leading environmental NGOs. With a handful of exceptions, influential media outlets do not routinely show relatable human stories in their visual selection and key photographic agencies continue to deliver climate clichés as their top search returns. This is a major barrier to engaging the public on the root causes and consequences of climate change – people literally do not see themselves in the melting ice and smoke stacks that still dominate the visual language of climate change.
‘Climate Visuals: Engaging media gatekeepers to catalyse a new visual language for climate change’ is an extension of a previous KR Foundation–funded project. The Climate Visuals library is now a well-established digital resource, used by more than 3000 campaigners, photographers, educators and communications specialists every month. With users from almost 100 countries around the world, totalling 70,000 individual sessions, it provides a unique, evidence-based platform for more effective visual climate change communication. But while the impact achieved so far has been significant, there is much more to do.
The focus is now on:
- Increasing the number of free-to-use Creative Commons images (within the overall library) from 200 to 600.
- Adding new images from existing partnerships with photographic agencies such as laif, Magnum and Panos Pictures, bringing the new total number of images in the Climate Visuals library from 800 to around 1500.
- Increasing the number of monthly users by 70%, to over 5000 users a month, through focused digital communication and social media work.
- Exploring the addition of community-driven features, such as allowing users to curate their own collections of images from the Climate Visuals library, rate and comment on images and to create their own galleries of images to tell stories about climate change relevant to themselves and their organisations. These user-curated collections could then be shared across social media, driving more engagement.
- Improving search functionality, in particular for geographical searches, e.g. via an interactive and searchable map and improving website performance on mobile devices.