New York Times Apologizes for Staged Art Gallery Photographs

The New York Times recently issued an apology for staged photographs that appeared alongside an art review that ran at the end of September.

[The photographs] appeared to show museum visitors viewing the exhibit.

In fact, the people shown were museum staff members, who were asked by museum officials to be present in the galleries to provide scale and context for the photographs. The photographer acknowledged using the same procedure in other cases when an exhibition was not yet opened to the public.

Such staging of news pictures violates The Times’s standards and the photographs should not have been published. (While pictures may show previews or similar situations before an exhibition opens, readers should not be given a misleading impression about the circumstances.)

One of the photographs is shown above. Basically the photos showed museum staffers as visitors without indicating so in the captions. The comments over at PDNPulse are pretty interesting, with some commenters arguing that this isn’t such a big deal, while others claim that this undermines the credibility of photojournalism.

What are your thoughts on this story?

(via PDNPulse)

Image credit: Photograph by Fred R. Conrad for the New York Times

  • JD Thomas

    As long as they don’t Photoshop in Pierce Brosnan in as Thomas Crown in ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’ I am ok with it.

    However, I do not buy the ‘for scale’ argument since the benches and doorways do that just fine.

  • Laura Sanchez

    Is not a big deal in this case, but maybe in others…..

  • Jimmy

    WTF – we always use museum staff in the photos we take for our newspaper – mainly due to the fact that we take publicity shots before the public are allowed in. Come on, I know that everything is supposed to be above board but like the other guy said, as long as they’re not photoshopping anything in then what’s the big deal?

  • Arlene C. Harris

    actually, in that the photograph is itself a composition, the addition of viewers makes it more cohesive than just a picture of things on a wall. Is it journalism? I don’t know. But the photograph itself is artful.

  • DennyBrandsen

    I think they have a point here..

  • Mikeprice4269

    Photojournalism is an image that runs as part of an actual story, this is just press reviews. If you wanted to show a picture of a band but you didn’t have a good one of them gigging then you could stage a fake show where they play a few numbers and you take the snaps for the review. It happens.

  • Info

    As a former TV journalist I’m split on the issue. On the one hand, staging a shot is NEVER allowed in TV News. I don’t know how it works in newspapers. For example, most portrait-type shots of someone in a print piece is staged. You ask the person to “stand here and look this way. Now look sad/happy/pensive”.
    For this story the caption and the piece is about the art work and the gallery, not the people so I think it’s ok. And yes, I do think the people help describe the size and scale of the room and paintings.

  • brian

    the lines between what is news and what is a paid promotional ‘advertorial’ are so blurred now
    I don’t see how this photo shouldn’t be allowed

    do people not realize that some stories are run because an advertiser paid to have the story published?

  • Richard

    If a museum is doing this for their own publicity, of course, use models. If the New York Times is covering a show as news, they should shoot the gallery with whoever is in it the day they get there to do their story. Anything else is advertising, not photojournalism.

  • Happy Tinfoil Cat

    “Staff in repose prior to opening to the public” caption would solve that conflict.

    The place would look barren and dead without people in the shot, which, obviously it is prior to opening. You can also add “Museum illumination was turned on to enhance view-ability specifically for this photo (see “dark frame of museum curator with mouth agape” below for unstaged photo)”

  • Coy Koehler

    Photo Journalism is journalism…this image is not.

  • Tom Roes

    I don’t see the problem. In TV News you also ask people to type a line on their laptop so you have an insert. Most of the times they type something resembling “my boss is a crazy fascist”. It’s obviously staged, and thus fake, but who cares?

  • Ranger9

    Speaking as someone who photographs exhibit installations for a museum, I can easily understand why this is necessary. It’s not unusual for it to take hours for live patrons to wander into positions that make a good photo.

    However, journalism is journalism and there’s no excuse for presenting a photo in a way that might be misleading. As others have said, one solution is a caption along the lines of “Museum staff members inspect the Blotzky exhibition before its public opening.” Better yet, put the show’s curatorial staff in the space, which would provide scale AND editorial value at the same time.

  • Yonas H.

    I don’t see what the hell the big deal is. Those photos provide visual context, it’s not as if the photographer was reporting from the front lines of Baghdad. So I don’t think there was a violation of any “journalistic” integrity. That’s my two cents.

  • //d.

    I dont think i would even ask for an apology for this image running as an illustration for the article… it is just to illustrate the article content.

    if a news photog goes out to cover say a gardener at a local botanical gardens – he will either grab a shot of the gardener working or pose a portrait of the gardener to illustrate the story.

    IMO this photo does that, and is a great shot to boot. – needs no apology.

  • Man Hattan

    Although the odds are very slim, it’s possible for this exact scene to occur randomly during the show, producing an identical photo. Also, the paintings are the key element, and they would be identical in any photos, since they are static. But, yes ultimately this photograph is a photo-journalistic lie, although a “white” lie.