Photojournalist Given Humanitarian Award for Choosing to Help Before Taking Photos

As a photojournalist, there are many moments where you have to answer a simple ethical question: do you take the photo, or do you try to help? This happens a lot in more tragic events, and conflict photographers are often accused of making the wrong choice.

Which is the right and wrong choice is up for debate in any given situation — a photo might spark change on an international level after all — but one thing is for sure: we don’t often hear about photojournalists putting down the camera and choosing to help right then and there. That, however, is exactly what happened in the case of Miami Herald photojournalist Al Diaz in February of this year.

While stuck on Florida State Road 836, Diaz saw a woman outside of her SUV screaming for help — her baby nephew had stopped breathing. Putting his profession as a photojournalist aside, Diaz ran to the woman’s aid, made sure that the situation was under control and ensured trained emergency personnel were on their way before ever laying hands on his gear. For his actions, he’s been given the NPPA’s Humanitarian Award.

Heading through traffic to find a police officer, Diaz was able to get aid to the five month old who, it was later discovered, had stopped breathing because of a tracheal cysts. The aunt of the baby and the police officers kept the baby’s breathing going long enough for emergency services to arrive.


Only after Diaz was sure he had gotten proper help for the baby and family did he kick back into professional mode, capturing powerful photographs of the events that transpired. These quickly went viral. NPPA president Mark Dolan had this to say about the events and why Diaz was given the humanitarian award:

I think Al’s actions exemplify the ethical and humanitarian stand that NPPA has taken over the years. It’s important for all photojournalists to remember that you don’t have to lay down your humanity when you pick up a camera. Al did just that, he put the welfare of the child first and made sure he did all that he could do, and it wasn’t until he realized that things were well in other people’s sure hands that he took up his camera and began making images. And they were incredible images at that.

The actions Diaz took in this trying situation go to show just how important it is to take a healthy dose of humanity before picking up the camera.

After watching the interview from Think Tank Photo with Diaz above, let us know your thoughts on the situation and how Diaz handled it. And if you’d like to read his own account of the events, head over to his website by clicking here.

(via Imaging Resource)

  • Sean Mason

    It’s important for all photojournalists to remember that you don’t have to lay down your humanity when you pick up a camera.You cease being a photographer when a child is in danger. This instantly made me think of the Kevin Carter Vulture photo

  • Melka

    Because if it’s an adult that is in danger, you can still push that shutter button.

  • erik75

    Is there really a need for the snark Meika?

  • ninpou_kobanashi

    Actually, it’s better for everyone involved if there is a survivor. More interesting story, I’d say.

  • ea

    be a human first—photographer, like, eighth.

  • David Liang

    I think this is a great story that deserves the applause and attention it’s receiving. It also helps the journalistic side too, I can only imagine the access and candid openess the mother will offer the photographer now that he’s helped them first. Great story.

  • David Liang

    That’s like you stating that you’re not broke, and me assuming then that you must be rich. I get your point completely but don’t put words into someone else’s mouth.

  • Kurt Langer

    He actually didn’t do anything that was not already going to happen naturally. And waiting after him calling around for peoples help didn’t make any difference to the shot he got. I mean, if he gave CPR and saved the baby at the same time and got a selfie of it all – then respect. But only if narrated by someone else and not himself gratificationing on. I wonder if he is planning to do a CPR course one day.

  • Brixton

    Maybe I’m missing something but I don’t understand why he won a humanitarian award. He did what a normal human being should do and aside from calling for people to help, he wasn’t the actual person who did the CPR.

  • CriticalofYou

    I don’t think people should be awarded for being decent. Least not to this level. Every time I’ve helped a thank you was enough. I’d turn this down if I was put in this situation. He didn’t do anything extraordinary.

  • Burnin Biomass

    I have no problem with the press association rewarding a member who did the right thing at a time when some might have snapped images first.

  • Brixton

    I’m not trying to dissuade rewarding people, but this is something that would have happened naturally. Nothing this guy did directly affected the outcome of the situation, so to award someone for simple doing what a normal human being should do, just seems sad to me. And like he said, before they even knew if the baby was going to live, he was already snapping away. It seemed more of a way to create publicity for the association rather than to actually award humanitarian work.

  • Burnin Biomass

    Then who should the winner have been? I know nothing of a press photographer curing cancer this year.

    You don’t have to do something superhuman to be a humanitarian. He “Respond as a human being first, a photojournalist second”. Sounds like a humanitarian ideal that the NPPA is right in rewarding.

  • Vin Weathermon

    This article and the award would not have happened I’ll wager if he didn’t take some images of the child getting cpr. Sort of a mixed bag.

  • Omar Salgado

    Let’s remember that planes were compressed in that photo by the effect of using a zoom. The photo is not what everybody thinks. Make a research both on the story of the photo and on technical aspects of lenses and the relation between angle of view and physical distance.

  • Aezreth

    The headline made me think it was the photographer giving the CPR, instead as far as I can tell he just flagged down a police officer then took the photos as usual. Am I missing something here, isn’t the actual hero in this story the aunt?

  • ISO640

    You do realize that child is at a UN food center? And the vultures were there not because of the starving people but because of a nearby manure pit? If you’re going to use an image/situation as a point, then it’d probably be better to know the history of that image.

    And just FYI, Carter chased the vulture off after taking the image and it’s been reported by several photographers at the same “airport” that the vulture was roughly 30 feet from the child.

  • ISO640

    I’d rather see this reported on than the infamy mass shooters get any day of the week. IMO, this is more newsworthy than someone killing tons of innocent people because they’re having a bad day–yet they often times get weeks of press.

  • Andy

    Do posts containing links get deleted? I posted a link to the Kevin Carter entry on Wiki and my post is gone.

  • Shah1805

    Carter may have chased the vulture off eventually, but it was also reported
    that he waited 20 minutes before doing so and left the child to her fate after
    he got what he wanted. Skeletonized by starvation, crumpled on the ground in the most pathetic of states, Kevin Carter immortalized the magnificence of her misery while failing to show her basic human compassion.

    Apparently the press were told not to approach the sickly for fear of contracting disease but how can someone be so heartless as to leave a child ravaged by famine lying in the dirt? The least he could have done was wrap the little girl in a jacket and carry her to the nearby UN camp. It’s what I would have done, what any decent human being would have done even if I was told not to.

  • Brixton

    Then I should get a humanitarian award for helping my neighbor cross the street…where’s my award dammit!? Oh yeah…I don’t work for a magazine and giving me an award wouldn’t cause any publicity…sounds just like how a humanitarian award should be given. (sarcasm)

  • Burnin Biomass

    Why not? If you put your camera down from an important image to do something helpful, or even just nice, i would say sure. You are assuming only superhuman acts make you a humanitarian.

    Again, this is a Press Photographers Association giving an award to a press member who personified an ideal they want all press photographers to live up to. Of course he deserves the award.

    BTW, probably in some way all the members of NPPA work for a magazine, newspaper or news outlet of some kind, so I’m not sure of the objection there.