Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Government and International Affairs

Major Professor

Steven Roach, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Bernd Reiter, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Holly Matthew-Dunn, Ph.D.


humanitarianism, photography, colonialism, liberalism, conflict photography


Ansel Adams, one of the world’s great photographers, once said, “There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.” This thesis will explore the relationship of the photographer, the viewer, and the photographed subject in the context of humanitarian photography, which has historically internalized a specific balance of power between the worlds of the photographer, viewer, and subject. By examining this tangible expression of the internalized world, this thesis is also performing a critical examination of humanitarianism itself with the intent of improving humanitarian practices and interior worlds. In examining these topics, this thesis will answer the following questions: What is the humanitarian gaze? And: Why is the spectatorial nature of sympathy reserved for Global South? These are questions that will lead to the core question that this thesis asks: what is the relationship between humanitarianism and colonialism?