The Power of Images

On 08. September 2015 the yellow press „BILD“ published their print and online daily edition without pictures.

For a yellow press paper with big headings and visualizing images as key elements an edition without pictures is a great statement. Trigger for not printing images were the media discussions on the rousing picture “BILD” published of the drowned three-year-old refugee. Whereas “BILD” was criticized for being disgraceful, “BILD” argued that the picture would document the world as it is, and that the world would not be pixelated.

The effect was enormous: Different papers and readers commented on social media with the hashtag #BILDohneBilder about the image free edition. Though it is a difficult task to show reality and respect human dignity on the same time. However, it has a great effect on readers, when the news is not accompanied with a picture. It looks empty and meaningless. It appears that the significance of pictures is first wholly appreciated when missing. The picture-less edition of “BILD” enhances the power of pictures impressively.

On the other hand side, there was also critique on the image-less edition: Especially for the branch of photographers the “BILD” edition would appear as cynical. The association of photographers “Freelens” confronted  the  Axel-Springer Verlag with their current habit to only offer photographers so-called “buy-out contracts” giving the publishing house all copyrights for the picture to be repeatedly published with one single fee. The picture market seems to be saturated and photographers have difficulties making a living by the royalties of their printed pictures. Even more concerning is the carelessness of society in taking the right for granted to post every picture found in the Internet.

As important as visualizing the messages of articles or posts, as obvious should copyrights and image licenses be handled. For more information on image rights you are heartily welcome to read our blogpost „Illustrate your Blog – but don´t forget the Image Rights!“

What do you think of “BILD” showing the ”power of images” by not printing them? We are curious to hear your opinion!

By Jacqueline Althaller


  • Whether you like the journalism of BILD or not, you have to admit that the idea of not showing pictures to point out their power was great. Nevertheless, the power of an image depends a lot on the titles, subtitles and comments that are added. Words limit the number of possible interpretations for a picture and lead to a clearer opinion about the scene that is shown. The power of images is connected very strongly to the text they are presented with. This is the reason why I think what BILD did was great to show the power of pictures but not as a reaction on what they were criticized for.

  • Tina Werner

    An important aspect in the discussion about “The Power of Pictures”, copyright and the precarious situation of many photographers is that pictures do not document the world as it is, as “Bild” argued. Rather, the photographer selects a certain detail, decides which perspective she takes on it and thus influences how light is shed on it – literally and figuratively. That “free” use or cheap purchase of photographs is being taken for granted by so many might be connected to their alleged authenticity: If pictures only reproduce reality, what does the photographer have to do with it? Why should she take credit for it? Emphasizing copyright on pictures and understanding the photographer as more than a mere picture-taker but thinking of her as an “author” might rise awareness of pictures as composed works. Understanding this is pivotal for consumers and multipliers alike.