Want To Be More Empathetic? Find Impactful Photography
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Want To Be More Empathetic? Find Impactful Photography

February 11, 2016

If imaginative empathy is fueled by great photography, then we can build the empathy habit by looking at powerful images every day. Add a little empathy to your Instagram feeds by following one or all of these artists.

Empathy is hard. Really hard. It’s one thing to “get” the target audience intellectually, but to be truly empathic we have to “feel” them. We have to not only be aware of their feelings and emotions, but we also have to understand their emotional experiences through the power of imagination. This is the point at which a marketer achieves real empathy – the ability to intuit what our target needs, wants or will respond to.

Pictures bypass the rational and go straight to the emotional.

At Kelton, we think a lot about the power of story to carry emotion and build empathy. No matter the challenge, we strive to create compelling narratives that help clients connect with customers in powerful ways.

Imagery shouldn’t be reserved for children’s fairytales and adult coloring books. Every story needs a picture. There is nothing like the power of an image to spark the imagination and build empathy. Pictures bypass the rational and go straight to the emotional.

Portraiture, in particular, is empathy’s rocket booster. A good portrait is more than your average cell phone snapshot. While a snapshot shows what’s on the surface or what a person wants to reveal, a portrait exposes the layers of feeling and experience carried within, and ignites imaginative empathy.

Want proof? Think about the power of portraiture in American history. Just last month, the New York Public Library released nearly 200,000 photos and public domain items digitally. The collection is a testament to the power of photography to build empathy, create connection and inspire action. It includes the photographs of Lewis Hine, which inspired progressive child labor laws in the early 1900s, as well as Dorothea Lang’s famous dustbowl photographs, which triggered support for American farmers during the Depression.

If imaginative empathy is fueled by great photography, then we can build the empathy habit by looking at powerful images every day. By pausing briefly to consider the feelings, lives and experiences of people we view only from a distance, we practice imaginative empathy, broaden our range of understanding, and become better 21st century marketers.

Fortunately, finding images that foster empathy is easier than ever before. Instagram is empathy central, if you do some digging. Here are some great well-known and not so well known photographers you can follow on Instagram. Each combines the intimacy of portraiture, the significance of personal story and the power of social media to help us understand, feel or just “get” people– both as consumers and as human beings.

Try following one or all of these artists – add a little empathy to your Instagram feed.

Humans of New York Probably most famous and one of our favorites, if you aren’t one of the millions of people who already follows HONY, you should be. From New York and around the world, Brandon Stanton tells individual stories of tragedy and success, bravery, love, joy and pain.

Nina Robinson This photographer’s family roots in Arkansas go back six generations. Her photography explores the “often overlooked communities” of the south.

Claire Bangser’s NOLA Beings Bangser also explores the diversity of her Southern hometown, New Orleans. Like HONY, she pairs imagery with the first person stories to build a deeper narrative around the people of her hometown.

Charles Mostoller Mostoller is a Philadelphia-based photojournalist who, along with newsworthy events, captures every-day people doing every-day things.

Miserable Men and Fashion Dads

For those who cater to men and the people who love them, these two feeds bring their real lives home with a look at the highs and lows of the American male consumer.

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