Photojournalism Ethics

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by michaelaly, Dec 27, 2004.

  1. NBC has been running video all morning of the disaster is Malaysia,
    Thailand, and Indonesia from the Earthquake and Tsunami. The video is
    rather disturbing, it depicts people being washed away by a fast
    moving river, some people on the bank are making rescue attempts with
    long poles. Dozens of people are shown in the river while there are
    very few trying to pull them out. The photographer(videographer) is
    standing on the sidelines wathing this all happen. So at what point
    should the photographer drop the camera and try to save these people?
    The photograph, while important, isn't worth letting someone die
    over. <br><br>
    There are precidents, for instance the "Death of a Spansih Soldier",
    in that case the photographer(W. Eugene Smith, I think) trying to set
    up his photograph led to the soldier's death(shot by a sniper), but
    it was unintentional.<br><br>
    I'm interested to hear from people who work as photojournalists,
    and interested to know if anyone has been in a similar situation
    before where they've had to choose between getting the picture and
    saving a life. Obviously there are various situations and what should
    be done depends greatly on the context. I wouldn't expect a
    photographer in Iraq to pick up a rifle and start shooting back. But
    when should you, and how extensivly, get involved as a journalist?
     
  2. There are precedents, for instance the "Death of a Spanish Soldier"...
    Wrong photographer (it was Robert Capa, not W.E. Smith) and you also have the facts wrong as well. The photo has been proved to be in no way "a set up" by the photographer, despite a claim by someone who wasn't anywhere near the place where it happened.
    The photographer (videographer) is standing on the sidelines watching this all happen. So at what point should the photographer drop the camera and try to save these people? The photograph, while important, isn't worth letting someone die over.
    So when people are dying in a massive flood you are supposed to jump in and become a victim as well? What if the broadcast and rebroadcasts of that specific bit of footage helps the survivors of that village get the aid they will obviously need? Should these not be considered in a discussion of ethics? Some times the most ethical act one can do is to be an honest witness and to report on what you saw. also we don't know what the photographer did immediately after he or she put the camera down or is doing right now .
    While its easy to judge someone who is on the scene from the comfort of a cozy chair in front of a television, but what are your ethical responsibilities? What are you doing to help relief efforts? Do you have skills that these people can now use? And if you do, are you jumping on a plane to go over there? Do you have any excess money, above what you need to feed, clothe and house you and your family? Are you donating the excess or even even a little bit of the excess to the various relief organizations?
     
  3. Easy question. Even if your attempt to rescue someones live would have only a remote chance of success you must drop the silly camera.


    Ellis wrote: "What if the broadcast and rebroadcasts of that specific bit of footage helps the survivors of that village get the aid they will obviously need? Should these not be considered in a discussion of ethics?"

    I consider this to be dangerous thinking.
    If something like this wave is happening and one is a witness, I consider it a golden opportunity to be in action for the ideals of humanity. Let this chance pass and you may never forgive yourself.
    To care about proper broadcasting instead, would mean not to do first things first.
    How about the story of a photographer who put his life at risk to save someone else? THAT would be a story which would raise some help for the victims. And as a side effect it would also raise the esteem of photojournalists.


    Michael wrote: "I wouldn't expect a photographer in Iraq to pick up a rifle and start shooting back."

    Glad that you dont expect that. How a photographer who would argue to leave Iraq for the Iraqi instead?
     
  4. Yes, I got the photographer wrong, Robert Capa...and I never said the photograph was a hoax. Robert Capa had asked the soldier to perform for a photograph(duck and roll I believe) when he was shot and killed(in reality)<br><br>
    And no, I don't know what happened right after the video ended, I wasn't there. And yes, the images may help the people get aid, and yes it will do good, for the ones who are still alive anyway.<br><br>
    Second, I am not judging from an EZ chair, I am asking a question about ethics not starting a blame game or holier than thou rant. I am curious about what has and will happen when photographing in the field and what situations photojournalists have faced. <br><br>
    and to top it off, if we all jumped on a plane to go "help out" during a disaster there would just be a bigger disaster.
     
  5. further to Ellis: there is a difference between first aid from far away on the one side and the immediate urgency of life saving on the spot. The first is needful and to some extend mandatory, the later is compulsory.
     
  6. I'm not a photojournalist.

    I understand that French law requires by-standers to lend their aid at the scene of an
    accident. However, the by-stander's realistic ability to help should be taken into account. I
    can't believe that any human would let someone else drown just so they could take a good
    picture. Maybe all help that was possible was already being given, in which case the best
    thing for the journalist to do is to bring news of the situation to the rest of the world.

    Do journalism courses have ethics modules and what do they teach?
     
  7. Ellis said: Some times the most ethical act one can do is to be an honest witness and to report on what you saw.

    That IS the job of the reporter and photojournalist. It is their ONLY job. Run out of film? Camera packs up? Do interviews on tape. Run out of tape? Get out the 'ol pad and start taking shorthand. Observe; record; analyse; organise; communicate; and report... that's it.

    Hunter
     
  8. Richard asked: Do journalism courses have ethics modules and what do they teach?

    Yes, and the answer is as I gave it in response to Ellis' comments [French law aside]. IF, and it was NOT the case stated here, the journalist is the ONLY help at hand the situation becomes a personal ethics one rather than a professional ethics question... but as soon as any additional help appears on the scene the journalist must withdraw and undertake his primary job.

    Hunter
     
  9. Dai Hunter wrote: "...the journalist is the ONLY help at hand the situation becomes a personal ethics one rather than a professional ethics question."

    So, if he is the ONLY help at hand, there is still room for a yes or no decision? Why not a must help instead of a can help, unless he is running big danger of being killed himself? And if he is not the ONLY help, but one that might change the course, if in that case he is not following his professional ethics and prefers to follow his own and help what then?
     
  10. ...Robert Capa had asked the soldier to perform for a photograph(duck and roll I believe) when he was shot and killed(in reality)
    Nope, that's not what happened.
    Bernard wrote:
    Even if your attempt to rescue someones live would have only a remote chance of success you must drop the silly camera.
    And anyone who is trained in rescue will tell you that is the last thing one should do because more than likely you then become another victim who then needs to be rescued as well or have your remains retrieved.
     
  11. I can't believe that any human would let someone else drown just so they could take a good picture.
    Human nature being what it is, I unfortunately believe that somewhere there are people who would do justthat and yes I agree with you and eveeryone else who is sane that such action is morally reprehensible. Any person who acts that way should be punished by death on the spot.
     
  12. If you want to donate money or equipment or supplies, I think the following organzations:

    Medicine Sans Frontiers (Doctors without Borders);

    the International Red Cross

    or

    The Red Crescent

    are your best vehicles for aid.
     
  13. Ellis wrote in response: "And anyone who is trained in rescue will tell you that is the last thing one should do because more than likely you then become another victim who then needs to be rescued as well or have your remains retrieved."

    I was assuming that, of course, some common sense is still involved and selfless help is not confused with illusion.
     
  14. bernd blauel asked: So, if he is the ONLY help at hand, there is still room for a yes or no decision?

    On an individual and very personal level the answer must be yes.

    Here are some examples;

    1) Man sitting on a park bench with a gun in his mouth. Do you take his picture before, and possibly after, he tops himself? Yes!

    2) Building on fire and someone is outside on a thrid floor ledge. Do you take their picture? Yes! Of course you hope they don't jump... but if they do you shoot as many frames as possible on the way down + one.

    3) I am minded to recall an interview with war photojournalist James Nachtwey, after his working time in El Salvador in 1984, when he was so upset and horrified by a scene in front of him that he almost didn't shoot a photo of it. He first turned away. He composed himself, turned back to the scene and did shoot some frames. Later when he processed the film he says that a single frame of the scene he almost didn't shoot made him jump out of his chair when he saw it on the light table. He decided then and there that he would never again not shoot something because it was not his decision to make... he would never again censor himself. It was his editor's decision to use or not use any photo... but if he didn't shoot he ursuped his editor as well as the public interest to know the truth. In Nachtwey's own words:

    "If I cave in, if I fold up because of the emotional obstacles that are in front of me, I'm useless. There is no point in me being there in the first place. And I think if you go to places where people are experiencing these kinds of tragedies with a camera, you have a responsibility. The value of it is to make an appeal to the rest of the world, to create an impetus where change is possible through public opinion. Public opinion is created through awareness. My job is to help create the awareness." ...Nachtwey

    Hunter
     
  15. The golden rule is report the incident and do not become involved. However I guess its a case of personal ethics in the end. I do remember seeing a massive stream of refugees on a road somewhere in Africa and a small girl about 3years old bewildered and crying in the middle of the stream of humanity and in danger of being knocked down and walked over. It was video footage. Monkey see monkey do, several other cameramen saw that one of them was onto something and moved into the frame focusing on the lost child. Suddenly a pro still photographer, a big solid guy with a couple of cameras hanging around his neck, pushed thro and picked up the child, as any compassionate person would do. I presume he would have taken her to some aid agency. Here is a pic of the renowned British Photojournalist Don McCullin in Greece during a gunbattle in the 19-60s He has broken the golden rule and is running with this old woman in his arms to remove her from the danger zone.
    00AZbz-21092884.jpg
     
  16. bernd blauel asked: So, if he is the ONLY help at hand, there is still room for a yes or no decision?

    A bit more by Nachtwey that may illustrate the extrmely personal decision that this is:

    ...My job is to record [it] and communicate [it.] And I stick to that except in those cases where I'm the only one who can make a difference -- if there isn't someone there to help or there aren't enough people to carry the wounded to a safe place.... When it's clear to me that I'm the one person who can make a difference, I put down my camera. ---Nachtwey
     
  17. Sorry, Don McCullin was in Cyprus when that incident took place.
     
  18. I've heard that McCullin did something similar when he was in Vietnam with a squad of
    green US Marines PFCs who had lost everyone above them in the chain of command.
    Realizing he had the most experience in combat he led them to safety.
     
  19. Dai Hunter reciting Nachtwey:"And I think if you go to places where people are experiencing these kinds of tragedies with a camera, you have a responsibility. The value of it is to make an appeal to the rest of the world, to create an impetus where change is possible through public opinion. Public opinion is created through awareness."

    Any photojournalist may stick to this kind of 'professional ethics' (a strange expression anyway), but let me have mine as well and say that these professional ethics can quickly become a deceptive illusion.
    Why should anyone be more interested in what the public thinks than to obey the command of his own soul? Why should anyone disregard his own consciousness for the sake of Mr. and Mrs. Anonymous' opinion? Seems pretty silly to me.
     
  20. This brings up another interesting question and one that might resonate with
    my fellow ny'ers. Some photographers, pro and amateur, went to the WTC on
    9/11 and subsequent days, in order to take photos. This being despite the fact
    that the Mayor, Police and Fire depts all requested that everyone except
    trained medical and emergency response people, etc. stay away from the
    scene. The WTC was not only an emergency site, it was also a crime scene,
    and also a place that still held great hazard for those walking among the
    smoldering ruins, who may have also added to the danger of those still
    trapped. I chose not to photograph it, i followed the directions of the
    authorities and stayed clear of it. It is obvious that many professional
    photojournalists would go there, however many amateurs and some art
    photographers chose to go there and walk among the remains of the
    buildings and it's inhabitants in order to get images for personal gain. After a
    few days of this, they started arresting these trespassers. But my question is ,
    would you have gone to the WTC in spite of the pleas not to?
     
  21. bernd blauel asked: Why should anyone be more interested in what the public thinks than to obey the command of his own soul? Why should anyone disregard his own consciousness for the sake of Mr. and Mrs. Anonymous' opinion?

    Whoever told you that PJs [or for that matter any hard news journalists] have a soul was misinformed. Those that start out with one, and who can't shake themselves loose from it, usually find another line of work in double quick time.

    Hunter
     
  22. hunter your bloated ego fantasies are too much to take.....
     
  23. ken hughes said: hunter your bloated ego fantasies are too much to take.....

    ...bloated ego fantasies...? What I am discussing in this thread are journalistic ethics and ethics as they are taught in schools of journalism around the world. Nothing to do with my ego, or fantasies, bloated or otherwise.

    The first point of departure for all journalists is that everything, literally everything, is in the public interest, though the editor may think otherwise once the story is submitted. Thereafter, any restrictions that are imposed on journalists [and for that matter editors] come from one of three sources: law; the codes of practice of professional associations and unions; and codes of practice that come from press commissions. Internationally there is almost nil difference between any of the codes and between the behaviour of journalists in almost any country you can name.

    I do not come to this discussion without experience - I have been at this for over 40 years. Getting the story or the pictures IS the job. If a journalist can't, or won't, do it they find another line of work.

    I think you need to get out more often my friend.

    http://www.spj.org/ethics.asp

    [US] SPJ Code of Ethics
    The SPJ Code of Ethics is voluntarily embraced by thousands of
    writers, editors and other news professionals. The present version of
    the code was adopted by the 1996 SPJ National Convention, after months
    of study and debate among the Society's members.

    http://www.missouri.edu/%7Ejourvs/rtcodes.html#2000

    [US] Radio-Television News Directors Association's code of professional ethics
    2000 RTNDA Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct
    (adopted September 14, 2000)

    http://www.uta.fi/ethicnet/uk.html

    United Kingdom
    CODE OF CONDUCT
    Adopted on 29 June 1994 by British National Union of Journalists (NUJ)

    http://www.pcc.org.uk/cop/cop.asp

    United Kingdom
    Press Complaints Commission
    Code of Practice
    Latest version: adopted 28 April 2004; effective as of 1 June 2004.

    http://www.uta.fi/ethicnet/ifj.html

    International Federation of Journalists
    DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES ON THE CONDUCT OF JOURNALISTS
    Adopted by the Second World Congress of the International Federation of Journalists at Bordeaux on 25-28 April 1954 and amended by the 18th IFJ World Congress in Helsingör on 2-6 June 1986.

    Hunter
     
  24. This was not a life and death situation, but it may illustrate the perils of intervention to some extent.

    Children are crossing a guarded crossroads on their way to school. they are being intimidated by soldiers. International observers are observing, and when they try to intervene to help children pass through the barriers, they themselves become the objects of intimidation. You go and try to help a couple of five year olds to cross. Suddenly you find yourself surounded by soldiers pointing their weapons at you. "Your job is to take pictures, nothing more". You back down. Finally one of the observers takes the kids by the hand and leads them through. The soldiers leave him alone. You feel like a coward.
     
  25. I really think this is a non-issue. There is never a point when someone is forced to "choose between getting the picture and saving a life"--as if confronted with a clear do-or-die moment (cue the music), as happens in the movies.

    There is not a journalist in the world who would allow someone to die if he or she were in a position to offer help without inviting grave peril.

    Ethical issues in journalism are far more sophisticated and nuanced than having to decide whether to drop a camera and save a life. That moment just never happens.
     
  26. It has been said already, but surely the job of the journalist is to get the story back so people know what happened. B Kosoff asked if we'd photography the WTC. Had I been there as it unfolded yes; there is no knowing what useful evidence could be captured. During the following days, it IS right that aftermath be recorded but if others are doing that perfectly well then I wouldn't get in the way.
    A journalist has a responsiblity to tell the story - think of the footage of the Hindernberg crash with the guy absolutely beside himself. If they had just said it's too terible to film, the record would have been lost.
    What about the Napalmed five year old running out of her village in vietnam: what if the photographers had put their cameras down ?
    The BBC reporter Micheal Burke sent back a report late in 1984 which began "Dawn over Korum, and a famine of biblical proportions", that report started the whole Band Aid/Live aid thing. What if he had said "I just can't bear it; get me on a plane home"
    And what about 9/11: if the press corps had said en-masse "We can't film that" the rest of the world wouldn't have had any idea. (And a lot of government actions would not have come to pass).
    With the tsunami, governments and individuals around the world will have to send aid on a giant scale to help the survivors. How can it be justified to people who haven't the first idea what happened ?
     
  27. This is the kind of ethical decision that only the individual faced with it can make. Each life and death situation is unique. But, it is very interesting to think about what one would do if facing a choice of helping or witnessing and recording if there is only one choice, so thanks for posting the question.
     
  28. Someone said early that your only job as a journalist was to be a journalist.
    But you arent just a journalist; or at least, i hope not; i hope that you can identify yourself as a human being that cares about others more than any responsibility to your occupation. to me, and i dont mean to impose this on other people, i could never value any "obligation" i had, to document or to my employers, over a human life.
     
  29. The term "photojournalist" has a cache of serving the greater good of the
    public, and there are photojournalists that deserve that distinction. However
    the term photojournalist also applies to those of much lesser integrity. There
    are those who view horrific suffering as a photo op, as having the potential to
    "make" their careers. They may rationalize their decision to not give a hand to
    a drowning man as being for the greater good, that is, informing the world of
    this suffering so that, after all these people have died, the world can lend a
    hand. Personally I do not agree with that rationale, if you are the only person
    in a position to save someone's life, you are morally obligated to do so. Many
    countries have laws which mandate this.

    James O'Neill wrote concerning photographers on the scene at 9/11,"there is
    no knowing what useful evidence could be captured." This is just wrong. A
    feeding frenzy of amateur photographers scrambling over a disaster scene,
    that also happens to be a crime scene scattered with the remains of the
    victims is not helpful in any way. Who knows what evidence got trampled and
    lost? This is why the Mayor, Police and Fire depts requested that people stay
    away and even had them arrested. There were still plenty of professional
    photojournalists, who have experience in disaster scenes, there and able to
    record the events. NYC is perhaps the media capitol of the world you can be
    certain that the press did not need some camera club devotees saving the
    day for them.

    Owning a camera does not make you a professional photographer, it does not
    give instant press credentials, it does not allow access to restricted areas, it
    does not give you the right to invade people's private lives. Some people
    have integrity when they use their camera, other's do not.
     
  30. Actually I answered a question I thought you asked, not the one you did ask.

    Had I been in the vicinity with a camera as it unfolded, yes I would have shot it.

    Would I have travelled there to shoot ? (the question you asked). No. Only if that was the only way things could get recorded (hardly likely in this case), and probably not even then.

    If you're a pro, then it's your JOB (even though it's unpleasant), if not a pro, and you go to such a scene it makes you a ghoul.

    I was in London on 9/11. I didn't have a camera - no one recorded the shock that people felt here. Someone should have.
     
  31. oh brother,

    sorry hunter, don't need to get out there more...when I first got into photography I was taught by some of the best in the business at college. Many of my friends are photojournalists, and they would all roll their eyes at your dramatic b.s..
     
  32. Well Ken I must say that you have contributed nicely to the discussion...

    No useful reply ? only a groan or a snide remark about my post(s) being BS, ect and how they are soooooo hard to take.

    No rebuttal?

    No alternate view?

    No expansion on my remarks?

    No counter arguments?

    Just sniping because you can? Is that it?

    That?s helpful!

    Hunter
     
  33. zzzzzz,huh? did you say something? I really haven't seen that you contributed much of anything either...why do I need to counterpoint stupidity? all I can say is anyone who covers the human condition with pen or camera doesn't do it very effectively if they have no "soul".
     
  34. The ordinary people sat at home with no great ethical 'problem' to consider and who abjectly fail to respond to the horrors contained in the footage/pictures/news communicated by journalists are guilty of a far greater evil than any journalist will ever be.
     
  35. Well Ken, at least I learned something from Hunter's posts.

    For anyone interested in the complexity of moral decisions in these types of situations, I recommend reading "The Bang Bang Club" by Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva. It's about a group of photojournalists covering the crisis (apartheid) in South Africa during the early nineties.

    Kevin Carter actually commited suicide shortly after receiving a Pulitzer for his work.

    The decision to put down your cameras and help is a very personal one. First and foremost journalists are there to document. I do believe there is a line though, where one should step out from behind the lens to help.. but I think everyone's line is in a different place.

    Tens of thousands of people died in the Tsunami. If all the journalists had put down their cameras to help, we'd have *maybe* a few less deaths, a few dead photojournalists, and no coverage of the disaster.

    I think that unless you've been in this type of situation (I havent) you'll never fully understand the capacity of a disaster like this. The number of people that would require help in this situation is staggering. If you decided to put down your camera and help one.. what about the next one, the next, the next after that? You'd never get off more than a few frames. For some people, this would make sense. To others, it makes sense to document the events. I dont think either point of view is necessarily wrong or right. That decision is strictly up to the photographer.
     
  36. yes, the decision is left up to the photographer, however that does not make his/her choice morally correct. I guess I have this funny idea that the photojournalistic "code" is not the superior model of morality.
     
  37. Bottom line, if you are a working journalist you get the picture first and then help if you can -- or are so inclined. Getting the picture is your job, what you are trained to do, and that comes first.

    Journalists are a lot like cops in that they have to be thick skinned and try not to become involved. A journalist has to have just enough emotional involvement to get the story/pic right. Too much involvement and the journalist ends up with a lot of sleepless nights.

    One person posted no one would ever choose a photograph over a person's life - those decision happen only in the movies. Wrong!!! Remember the Buddhist monk who set himself on fire during the VietNam war as a protest? That was a staged media event, and had all the photographers agreed not to photograph that monk he probably would not have gone through with his actions. But that was not the agreement...he doused himself with gas and lit a match....and we have pictures of the event....that is the only example that comes to mind but I am sure there are others.
     
  38. Here is the Vietnam era image that Bill remembers. The interesting method of choice of self destruction also has a cultural dimension, often missed in Western reports and Western understanding of the event... Buddhists believe that dying in this manner deprives the soul of the ability to go to heaven - so this was a supreme sacrifice in protest on the part of the monks. They not only destroyed their body but gave up any chance of everlasting peace for their soul.
    00AiGE-21285284.jpg
     
  39. Standing around waiting until they "do it"
     
  40. Kent State iconic image
    00AiGV-21285484.jpg
     
  41. newsworthy?
    00AiGa-21285684.jpg
     
  42. Stop taking pictures and help him? - Notice at least three photogrpahers working here...
    00AiGh-21285784.jpg
     
  43. i know this thread is kinda old and the chance of someone reading it is nil, but this is a subject i feel strongly on.<P> first let me state, i am not a professional photojournalist. that being said i have a question for all those who questioned should a photographer help someone rather than photograph them and move on. my question is can you help them? are you trained in even rudimentary first aid or rescue? <P>i am. i do not see how this is even a question for most of you. it is more dangerous to the person who needs rescue and to you than you realise. every year thousands of would-be rescuers are seriously hurt or killed simply because they dont know the first thing about safety at the scene of car accidents and other much more complicated situations.<P> that being said if you feel you can help some than try, but do not risk your life or someone elses becuase you feel you have to.<P> as i stated above i am qualified to make these statements. i am a nationally registered paramedic, i have the equivalent of a two years degree in pre hospital medicine. i work full time at a commercial ambulance service and volunteer my time at a local fire dept. i dont mean to sound like a jerk here (especially since this is my first post) but this is an issue i feel strongly on.
     
  44. . Although every situation is different I think I someone is protesting for something they really believe in I would photograph them. The person in question would more than likely still carry on with what they are doing (such as the burning monk) but by documenting it that image can then be shown to alert people to the matter they were fighting for. The awareness raised my stop others having to take such dramatic measures and that person would not have sacrificed themselves in vain.
     
  45. We should all be trained in basic first aid and CPR. In the photo just above I doubt that you could have done much to help the guy being beaten. Offer your photos to the police for use as evidence against the guys with the sticks. Use your cell phone to call the police. Ask your local police department which is faster where you live: dialing 911 or directly to the local police. I have the police number programmed in my cell phone. Risking your own life is seldom worthwhile.
     
  46. It occurs to me that ethics also apply in other, less dangerous situations. I've been at parties and back stage where rock stars (and others) were smoking pot or snorting cocaine. I suppose that from a strictly legal standpoint I should have quickly gotten out of there, and as a good citizen, called the police. That's not reality, though. I'm there to take photographs of the people involved. I've always just made sure that the drugs weren't visible in the photos, nor was anybody toking or snorting when I shot a picture.
     

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