Girl from Viral #BringBackOurGirls Photo is Not a Kidnapped Nigerian Schoolgirl


Photographer and filmmaker Ami Vitale has been to Guinea-Bissau three times — in 1993, 2000 and 2011 — for the Alexia Foundation, bringing back powerful photographs that show a different, more hopeful side of Africa.

And yet, somehow, three of those images have this week become the viral face of a Twitter campaign meant to raise awareness about a group of Nigerian girls who were kidnapped from their school by a terrorist organization called Boko Haram in mid-April.

Vitale spoke with the NY Times Lens Blog on Thursday about this blatant misappropriation and misrepresentation, explaining why it hurt her to see her images used in this manner:

There are many times when I get upset when people take my photos without permission, but this isn’t about that… This is about misrepresentation.

These photos have nothing to do with those girls who were kidnapped. These girls are from Guinea-Bissau, and the story I did was about something completely different. They have nothing to do with the terrible kidnappings. Can you imagine having your daughter’s image spread throughout the world as the face of sexual trafficking? These girls have never been abducted, never been sexually trafficked.

She goes on to elaborate further, making a powerful argument for a photojournalist’s responsibility to his or her subjects. “We are responsible as photographers and journalists when we make promises to do justice to their stories,” she explains, which is why she has done everything she can to have the image taken off of Twitter by everyone from the BBC to musician Chris Brown, both of whom shared it with their massive audiences.

To read her full interview, head over to the NY Times Lens Blog. You can also find out more about the #BringBackOurGirls movement by clicking here, or show your support on Twitter by using the hashtag in a tweet of your own.

(via Boing Boing)

  • f64

    Chris–do you actually read the news, or do you just make things up as you go along? The Nigerian girls were NOT “kidnapped and sold into the vile world of sexual trafficking in April.” The were kidnapped by the Muslim group Boko Haram (which means Western Education is forbidden in Islam) because they don’t want girls to get a western education. Another Muslim group, the Taliban, threw acid in girls faces and bombed their schools in Afghanistan to stop them from getting an eduction. The abduction had NOTHING to do with sex trafficking.

  • DLCade

    You’re absolutely right, the sentence was incorrect. Thank you for pointing this out. It’s been corrected.

  • Iceblink_Rhet

    And what about the boys? I find it very disheartening that so many media outlets have completely ignored what happened to them, not even giving them a single sentence of acknowledgement… #Bringbackourgirls AND #Avengeourboys

  • George Johnson

    I wouldn’t expect the image to be of one of the missing girls, it’s an advertising campaign for intents and purposes, so therefore they’d find the most suitable image. Might be misleading to most but that’s what advertising is as such, portraying something in a suitable light to ensure awareness of the product or brand. With regards this particular issue over the image being used, I feel most sorry for the original photographer as they’re unfortunately going to get the flak over this as it’s their image even though they may have had next to no say in whether it was used or not. The person drew up the “poster” will most likely never have to face any criticism.

  • kieraeastedi321

    just as Carrie said I am taken by surprise that some
    one can earn $9760 in a few weeks on the computer . you could try this out

  • slyman

    they care so much about these girls when they’re kidnapped but not when they’re living in poverty? but yea i agree with George Johnson.

  • Eric F Woods

    My Uncle Andrew got
    Cadillac ATS Sedan by working part time online from home. Get the facts

  • Rob Alderson

    No-one has been kidnapped, the entire thing is a fraud.

  • Ian

    Nice work on using the wrong photo, and It’s nice to live in a world where hashtags can replace Special Forces ;)