An Eye-Opening Look at How Many Conflict Photos Are Staged

Here’s a fascinating video in which Italian photographer Ruben Salvadori demonstrates how dishonest many conflict photographs are. Salvadori spent a significant amount of time in East Jerusalem, studying the role photojournalists play in what the world sees. By turning his camera on the photographers themselves, he shows how photojournalists often influence the events they’re supposed to document objectively, and how photographers are often pushed to seek and create drama even in situations that lack it.

You might start looking at conflict photos in the news a lot differently after watching this.

(via ISO1200)

  • Sinister Dexter

    Mark, are you a natural born pillock or did you receive training?

  • flashy

    .. not using your real name I see . . .. . .

  • Matthew

    Two years after this was posted, I stumble on it and feel compelled to comment:

    This presentation is so extraordinarily weak, it breaks my heart. This kid went to a couple of regularly-scheduled events and took an inexperienced perspective about something he clearly knows absolutely nothing about, then proceeds to do precisely what he’s claiming to be pointing out in his presentation: manipulating a story through his lens.
    I find the conjured disappointment and anger in some of the comments here also quite pathetic (and some of the more thoughtful comments quite encouraging.)

    The list of things that non-professional photographers would find fascinating – and sometimes disappointing – about the process professional photographers go through in order to make photographs is a VERY LONG LIST. But this story zeros in on one of the most easily misunderstood of those things – pointing an accusatory finger at an issue that is consistently addressed by some of the first questions in ANY photography OR journalism class… He claims (or at least strongly implies) that photojournalists deliberately and systematically influence the circumstances they are photographing. This claim only serves to reveal his classic rookie misconception. It’s disappointing that Petapixel gave this presentation a stage at all; even more disappointing that they perpetuate the misrepresentation with such a misleading and inflammatory headline.

    To be clear: Even the BEST and most responsible of photographers cannot entirely avoid impacting their environment while photographing it. No professional photographer is delusional enough to believe it’s possible for their presence not to affect the environment they are documenting. The impact of the photographer on a scene is one of the necessary challenges that almost ALL photographers are forced to deal with in order to get a story told, and they ALL understand this.

    This young man’s “revelation” about this fact only serves to reveal his own ignorance about this historically very well-considered element that serious photographers have dealt with since the dawn of the medium. His presentation is itself entirely sensationalistic and ill-informed.

    Petapixel’s audience deserves better than this.

  • David

    Everything here depends on how these images are captioned in the media, if indeed they ever even appeared in the media. Context is an important part of the story. Does the image from behind the shield come with a made up story about an aggressive conflict? If so that’s a problem.

  • David

    This is an unfortunate by-product of our presence, but the alternative, to not be there at all, is unacceptable to me. We must try our best to affect the scene as little as possible and keep shooting.

  • imsilly

    I more surprised people actually thought these photos weren’t posed.

    Photojournalism is just as biased and unobjective as any other type of journalism. It uses real life as a jumping off point, but quickly looses all objectivity. I think back to my favourite pieces of documentary photography like Eugene Smith’s Minamata photos and you realise it’s intermixed between spontaneous shots and posed ones.

    Does this mean photojournalism is any less legitimate? Of course not, because at the end of the day the important thing is the dialogue between people it creates. How it makes people form ideas and how photography is used by journalists to express their views.

    I guess it’s left to the naive and idiotically straight forward of us to still get offended.

  • Paul Watson

    Is’nt this guy doing EXACTLY the same thing ? Creating Drama were their isn’t ? Shooting from a different angle to create Hype and media sensation. He sits there getting an accolade from other media about his portrayal of the media.. The Irony is so think you almost miss it.