Ethics And Photography Discussion


General Photography

I was going to write something about this post at PDNPulse and the underlying topic, but then I thought maybe Rob would do that, and, indeed, he just did, confirming what I thought: “it’s the magazine that determines the ethics of the photography they use. It’s the magazine’s job to fact check not only the stories but also the photography. There are almost always many images to choose from a shoot and the final selection of images to run will ultimately determine the tone of how the subject is portrayed. The editors are making those final decisions.”

That pretty much turns this whole debate into one of those pseudo-discussions that we usually only see on TV. Needless to say, there’s a whole lot more to this, because even if one was to assume that it is the photographer who has an ethics issue here, the question about journalistic standards is still fundamentally flawed: Doesn’t for example Martin Schoeller show us Barack Obama as we would see him if the Secret Service (and Obama himself) allowed us to get very close to his face? Isn’t Martin Schoeller thus actually doing a perfect journalistic job by showing us the face as we would see it, with no distortions etc.? The same also goes for Jill Greenberg’s John McCain cover - if the guy has huge facial scars and blood-shot eyes, then not showing those would be bad journalism, right? Needless to say, Greenberg’s monkeying around with the outtakes is still inexcusable, but no ethics law (provided one existed) would prevent people from doing such things anyway.

I think the NPR piece points towards an extremely glaring misunderstanding of photography itself and of how it works and is dealt with in the editorial context. “Snap Judgement” indeed, but not the photographers’!