Media coverage of war relies on military clichés, or tropes of war photography – tanks, soldiers, explosions, crying women, pitiable refugees – which make the situation immediately recognizable for the readers. This practice produces a distorted picture that excludes most of the actual, non-sensational day-to-day experiences of war. Digital circulation of images that exoticize and dehumanize victims of war normalizes public perception of such populations as the new “savages” and “primitives” who, supposedly, belong in the landscape of war. This essay explores a social media initiative that aims to challenge the conventional media coverage of war and to provide an alternative that is truer to the actual situation on the ground. The project, titled #5Kfromthefrontline, based in Facebook and Instagram, and produced by the author in collaboration with a photojournalist Anastasia Taylor-Lind, focuses on portraying the everyday reality in the war zone in Eastern Ukraine routinely overlooked by the mainstream media. Engaging in an exercise of media self-analysis, the author argues that social media are a double-edged sword: they may endanger vulnerable populations – but may also empower them.

Image credit: Photo by Anastasia Taylor-Lind

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