Creativity can impact wars

by Martin MacConnol – Apr 13, 2022

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Some pictures are worth a thousand pictures too.

That’s my reaction to the work of the artist who recreated the Bucha atrocity photo in the streets of Moscow – the one of the dead man, facing away from the camera, hooded and with his hands tied behind his back. It is a creative campaign of the highest quality: a reminder of the power of art to say something profound.

In its own way it is up there with the Guernica painting by Picasso and the haunting World War One battle scenes of Paul Nash. Like them, it has the ability to help steer sentiment in the here and now: to be another brick in the wall of opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and thus to help make it stop.

Like all great creative campaigns it is brilliantly simple. It takes just one idea, the image of the murdered man and makes it the focal point. By placing this atrocity in the streets of Moscow it provokes a myriad of thoughts.

The calm street scenes remind us of the normality of Bucha that has been wrecked by Putin’s regime. In doing so, it makes us think how fragile our civilisation is, how easy for the landmarks around us to be reduced to rubble, for innocent people to be killed.

With the people walking past, not looking at the body, it is a reflection on the denial of many Russians to acknowledge what their rulers are doing in their name. It challenges us in other countries by juxtaposing the awful with the normal. In total, it is a wake-up call and reminds us how art and creativity have a role to play in wartime.

Of course, as an act of realpolitik protest it is also pure genius. At a time when you can be arrested in Russia for simply holding up a blank poster this is a guerrilla act of rebellion. One person, one photographer and the shot is taken. If there are no policemen about, no CCTV cameras on the walls, how can they stop it happening?

And then finally, it is a creative campaign for the world we live in today. It is a simple photo, immediately shareable and because the content is so powerful it travels with the impact of the best viral campaign.

Clients often ask a content agency for examples of great creativity in credentials meetings and pitches – they want to know what inspires us. It is easy to trot out the standard corporate examples.

But I know that for months to come now I will cite this brave artist as the acme. I can only hope that his (or her) protest, the unnerving subversion of Putin’s narrative, doesn’t see the artist caught and shackled for daring to speak truth to power.

Published Apr 13, 2022

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