Do you think that when faced with a delicate situation - a polictical protest with multiple injured persons, war, natural disasters - or other scenarios where people are hurt, dying or dead - do you think that we should stop photographing? Or should the camera keep rolling in order to capture atrocities? Would you stop to help, rather than shoot? Would you stop shooting if an injured person begged you to? What about if you were being threatened - where do your loyalties lie then?
It's an interesting topic for sure, and one that nearly always throws up controversy, debates and discussion each time a controversial or 'different' image is taken and circulated. What images can you think of that have sparked controversy either globally, or just in your personal opinion? This month we've talked to ^1pen, the CV for Photo-journalism here on deviantART - to get her views...
"Sometimes when we look at a photo we forget to add another person to it and that's the photographer. Every photo has this invisible person who was there living, breathing, witnessing, and experiencing exactly what you're looking at (including horror and tragedy, including smells and sounds and sensations you see but don't experience through a photograph the way the photographer and subject did at the time the photograph was taken). This is photojournalism. It covers the world. It covers diverse peoples, cultures, events, political or religious issues, and even rival sports teams. Both the subject in front of the camera and behind it can come from anywhere. And they are real.
I often advise people when I post controversial DDs that feature tragedy to not make the mistake of thinking the photographer was or still is immune. We're tough, but we're not made of stone and many of us have scars, physical and emotional, as well as opinions about the subject matter just like anybody else. And it's no secret in the media that many photojournalists suffer and are killed just as the people they are documenting are (though sadly, and ironically, and probably in a manner that would madden the photojournalist in question, their death gets more ink in a paper than the subject they were covering did). Photojournalism is home to some of the most dangerous (and important) images and many photographers are willing to die to get them and get them out.
You can debate the ethics all you want, but you should also consider the ethics of keeping quiet.
If you have the gift and opportunity to tell the story, do you or do you not have the obligation to do so?
Photographers and artists have a job to do, a story to tell, and many of us are not uncaring insensitive robots when the photos we take happen to be controversial or uncomfortable, in fact, that might be the whole point. We want you to feel about it. We want to get you talking. Maybe you weren't there, but we were and this is what we saw. This is what you missed and it's important. That's the purpose of news. That's the purpose of photojournalism.
I know that as a sports photographer I am not immune to this question either. I have seen some pretty horrific accidents and deaths and have had to make that decision whether to release the shutter or not. Truth is, I usually do, because I feel that responsibility, that obligation to tell the ugly parts as much as the beautiful parts. It hits me hard since I've been working with some athletes for years and they are my friends and family. It's a really awful sensation to realize the blood in your photo is that of a talented kid who will never play the game again. I've lost plenty of sleep over the things I've seen and the photographs I've taken. I balance it though by being very close to the athletes and crews and I consult with them about what they're comfortable with when I can. I weigh the privacy and rights of my subjects against the need for the information to be discussed publicly. There is no right or wrong answer. No definite one at least. Every situation is unique and needs to be treated that way. Photojournalists who respect their subject...it often shows in their pictures, I think. You can just tell sometimes. You can see the difference between a paparazzi-like shot, a disrespectful shot, and a journalistic shot. I think people instinctively know when they're being respected or being taken advantage of.
A recent sporting accident I witnessed took place at my feet. The workers trying to resuscitate the athlete screamed at the crowd of bystanders holding their cellphones up in the air to leave them alone, to respect the situation. No one screamed at me. Why? I honestly think it was because I was crying. I was doing my job, but I was sobbing the entire time. I care about the people I work with and the subjects I cover, and I'm going to face and make those ethical decisions to the best of my ability. I respect them and it's probably why I am often respected in turn. I never get in the way of emergency crew and I feel like I instinctively know when a shot is inappropriate. I wish I could provide specifics, but there just aren't any. I think it just comes with experience.
Honestly, I find the people who go "OMG I would run and help that guy!" have never actually been put in that situation, and aren't professional photojournalists or combat cams or doctors or emergency workers who've already been through that gauntlet more times than they can count and who shudder when they try to count them. You can theorize your actions, but you don't really know how you'll react the first time you're the one in middle of that awful experiment. So many people jumped on the photographer who took the photograph of the man who was hit by the subway train, but no one seemed to notice the crowd of bystanders who did nothing help that man also captured in that picture. You don't know what you'll do until you're there. For all you know the photographer was doing the only thing available to him from that distance: to freeze time.
And that frozen moment can become a powerful tool.
Having a photograph of a kid's bones being crushed by another player can become a powerful tool for change within a sport, for increased safety measures, or better equipment. Yes, photos like that, or like the photo of the runner missing his legs from the Boston Marathon Bombing or the man about to be hit by a train in the New York Subway, raise questions about ethics within photography, but more importantly they raise questions about humanity. About where we came from, where we are, and where we are going. And for many photojournalists that's worth releasing a shutter for."