Before I begin with an observation of a photo that emerged from yesterday’s horrific bombings, I’d like to first take a moment to acknowledge the insignificance of my thoughts vis a vis the tragedy that has unfolded. There have been many great pieces that have already emerged in the first 24 hours like this one from Bruce Schneier of The Atlantic. That said, I blog about salient issues in photography, and there is no better time to discuss an issue than when it is in our collective consciousness.
Madeleine Corcoran over at Duckrabbit has published a sharp criticism of photojournalist Samuel Aranda‘s decision to license his most famous conflict photo to Canadian electronic band Crystal Castles for use on their album cover and merchandise.
This striking photo, taken by Magnum photographer Paolo Pellegrin, has been making the award rounds recently, sweeping up first and second place trophies for the photog’s mantle. According to the description, the photo portrays a “former Marine Corps sniper,” and is part of a series of photos taken in a rough part of Rochester, NY called “The Crescent.”
Pellegrin’s ethics, however, are now being called into question by a BagNewsNotes article, which points out that the man in the photo, Shane Keller, was neither a sniper nor does he live in The Crescent — he was headed to a shooting range at Pellegrin’s request, as part of a portrait shoot. Read more…
Heads up, celebrities: nothing is too personal for the lenses of money- and star-hungry paparazzi photographers. Actress Evan Rachel Wood found out the hard way today after The Daily Mail published paparazzi photographs of her leaving a hospital with an ultrasound scan image clutched in her hands. The article was titled, “Baby’s first picture! Pregnant Evan Rachel Wood can’t stop smiling as she emerges with ultrasound scan.” Understandably, Wood was furious.
Paparazzi photography is a topic that has come up quite a bit in recent days, with most of the stories putting the camera wielders in a pretty bad light. Joerg Colberg over on Conscientious has a thought provoking piece on how photographers’ rights seem to be trumping basic human decency — with the blessing of our culture.
I am not going to actually show the photograph I am going to write about. [It] shows a young woman in the center of the frame who is surrounded by six male figures [...] five are photographers. They’re photographers we call paparazzi. The young woman – actress Sienna Miller – is caught “mid-action”: Her posture looks defensive, her arms are raised, in particular her right one, as if to defend herself from the paparazzo at the left edge of the frame whose gaze is centered on her [...] The activities that produce photographs like the one I am talking about here are widely accepted.
If you did not know anything about paparazzi your impression might be very different: A young woman surrounded by young men, in a very defensive posture, looking terrified – that’s imagery we usually attribute to assault, to the presence of physical or emotional violence [...] Does our right to make or take any photograph really trump people’s right to live dignified lives?
Meditations on Photographs: A Terrified Young Woman Surrounded by A Group of Male Photographers by an unknown paparazzo [Conscientious]
“Deadly sniper shot through the lens.” That’s the title of a photoblog entry published over on Reuters last week by staff photographer Goran Tomasevic, who’s covering the deadly conflict in Syria. The photo above was accompanied by the text, “A tank fired a couple of shells onto the top of the building and rubble fell down around us.”
The images offer a grim first person view into what it’s like to find oneself in the midst of the fighting. They also sparked debate over the ethics of putting photographers directly in harms way for the purpose of journalism. At least one news outlet is now taking a strong stance: The Sunday Times is reportedly refusing to receive photos from freelancers due to the risks involved.
NPR sparked a debate regarding photojournalism, ethics, and privacy this past Monday after publishing a story titled, “What It Feels Like To Be Photographed In A Moment Of Grief” on its photography blog.
The discussion revolved around the photograph above, which AFP photographer Emmanuel Dunand captured in the evening after the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Street photography is a genre that every photographer will try at least once in his or her career. Its broad appeal stems from the fact that you can do it anywhere; there’s a human element to the images that captivate the viewer, and if done well, can make for some extremely arresting images.
However, it also requires balls. You have to get close enough to your subjects; and with people, invading personal space is uncomfortable (and possibly hazardous to health) for both photographer and subject.
The New York Post sparked a firestorm of controversy last week after publishing a photo of a man about to be struck by a subway train. People around the world were outraged that a photographer decided to photograph what had occurred, that he had sold (or, in the photographer’s words, licensed) the photo to a newspaper, and that the paper decided to publish it with a sensationalist front page story.
The New York Times found an eerily similar story on its hands this week, but its handling of the situation — and the subsequent public reaction to the article — has been drastically different.
Jonathon Keats of Forbes has a great piece discussing truth in photography and Joel Sternfeld’s 1978 photo of a fireman shopping for pumpkins as a house burns in the background:
Sternfeld recognizes the passive-aggressive coerciveness of pictures, and enlists their manipulative power. “You take 35 degrees out of 360 degrees and call it a photo,” he told the Guardian in a 2004 interview. “No individual photo explains anything. That’s what makes photography such a wonderful and problematic medium.”
[...] A century ago, anything a camera captured was widely accepted as fact. Today every image is presumed to be contrived. We’re wary of underhanded propaganda and attuned to journalistic perspective. Yet as concerned as we’ve become about pictures, we remain all too confident about our unmediated vision, which is also inherently selective, limited by when and where we’re looking. Sternfeld’s pictures remind us that, like a camera, our eyes are essentially passive. Like photography, observation is an act of authorship.
Here’s a Calvin and Hobbes comic exploring the exact same issue.
Do Not Trust This Joel Sternfeld Photograph [Forbes via POTB]
Image credit: Photograph by Joel Sternfeld