18N - A Google Image Problem

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Last week I was looking for images for the website. They had to be pictures of Reunion Island, something beautiful, intense, cultural. Something to really show Reunion off should someone come across Anglais.re who hadn’t heard of it. First stop: Google Images!

So I typed ‘Reunion Island’ into the search box, and was given this: The first was from a site called balcktomato.com, It looked to me like a travel site. It was a picture of a lush mountainside with waterfalls flowing down the side.

The second, third and fourth photos were of Reunion Island’s geographical location. Useful images, sure, but not what I was looking for. The fifth photo stopped me in my tracks. It’s a photo taken in May 2013 of three policemen and two ambulance drivers carrying a corpse across a beach in Saint Gilles.

Hold on. Is this the sort of image English speakers get of Reunion? One of a dangerous, deadly island, unfit and unsafe for tourists? Apparently, yes. Now in no way am I belittling or downplaying the aforementioned tragedy. What happened was awful, and I hope steps are being taken so that this doesn’t happen again.

But why is that the fifth image? Since that picture was taken in May 2013 we’ve had Le Grand Raid, Sakifo, Leu Tempo Festival, Florilèges, Mielvert and even a volcanic eruption! Surely there was someone at those events with a camera and a blog!

Imagine a non-French tourist doing research for their holidays and noticing that this is the fifth image that comes up. They must presume that this is all the Island is famous for. That’s a tragedy for tourism. I say non-French tourist because if you type ‘Isle de la Réunion’ into the search box, you get a very different search result. Try it out yourself.

So what to do? Simple. If you own a website that has nice pictures of Reunion, why not label them with the keywords ‘Reunion Island’ not just ‘Ile de la Réunion’. Maybe then we can fix this image problem of ours.


to show Reunion off - mettre en avant la Réunion

to come across - trouver par hasard

lush - riche

waterfalls - cascades

useful - utile

it stopped me in my tracks - ça ma choqué

corpse - cadavre

to hold on - attendre

unfit - inapte

to belittle - minimiser

to downplay -  dédramatiser

aforementioned - susdit

steps - les mesures

camera - appareil photo

to notice - remarquer

to come up - apparaitre

to fix - réparer