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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Positions and Practice – Ethical use of images?

After reading the above article about how an image taken by photojournalist Jeff Mitchell of refugees crossing from Croatia to Slovenia in October 2015  was used controversially by UKIP during the 2016 referendum campaign to leave the European Union, my thoughts are…

Jeff Mitchell took a legitimate image of the crisis faced by refugees fleeing conflict in their own countries. As it was taken on behalf of Getty Images, he could not be held responsible for how it was ultimately used. If he hadn’t taken this image, we would be unaware of the scale of the problem.

Getty Images should have asked how UKIP were intending to use the image before issuing a licence. After all UKIP is a political party and so Getty Images could have determined that the image may be misrepresented to suit political arguments.

When it comes to UKIP, they were totally unethical in how they used this image. They presented the image as being on the UK borders; there was no geographical context given to the image. UKIP used this in a way that would incite racial hatred. The mainly male refugees appear to be non-white individuals. I have compared the original image and the UKIP use of it. In the original image there is a prominent white male (bottom right hand side) who has been placed behind one of the text boxes on the UKIP poster. This is not a coincidence. This is, in my opinion, a deliberate act to further support UKIP’s message.


Figure 1 and 2: Jeff Mitchell. Refugees. 2015


Figure 1: Mitchell, J. From The Guardian. 2016. Jeff Mitchell’s best photograph: ‘These people have been betrayed by Ukip’ | Art and design | The Guardian. [ONLINE] Available at: [20 October 2016].

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