Compassionate Horror or Compassion Fatigue? Responses to Human-Cost-of-War Photographs

Jennifer Midberry


Despite the insistence of photojournalists that war images have the potential for stirring concern, little academic research has looked specifically at the relationship between conflict photos and empathy, compassion, and engagement. This study used focus group interviews to investigate what type of visual frames in war photos might evoke empathy and compassion while encouraging engagement. More specifically, this study examined whether participants made meaning differently out of photos with three types of human-cost-of-war visual frames and a militarism frame in terms of empathic and compassionate responses and their intentions of future engagement with war coverage.


photojournalism, compassion fatigue, empathy, war photography, visual communication, visual framing

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