Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ethics in photography

I saw a guy with a camera the other day stalking a homeless person. The homeless person was sitting in doorway with his dog. He was unaware that he was being photographed.

It made me wonder about the intentions of the photographer. Why was he taking the picture? Who was he taking it for? What did he want to show?

Street photography has become more fashionable with the ubiquitous digital camera and even camera phones. Self appointed 'photojournalists' are out and about snapping everything in sight.
It makes me feel uncomfortable because I'm not sure of the ethics of all of these photographers. The questions, why, who what keep bouncing around in my mind.

A true photojournalist is a witness to an event or story. He or she is the representative of all of those people that have not been able to see something for themselves. Photographing someone who finds themselves in unfortunate circumstances should only be done if the photographer is ethically motivated to seek and show the truth. The photojournalist needs to be socially and morally aware that they are documenting a human life, a real human being whose rights, feelings and emotions should be respected. Too often amateur photographers take pictures without an ethical/ legitimate reason, without understanding, without knowledge and without a proper purpose.

Do you want to know what gives certain images a real power. They are usually images taken by photographers with authenticity and integrity deeply concerned about their subjects. W. Eugene Smith's work in Minamata epitomizes this.

The antithesis of this is the photographer that snaps shots of unfortunate people because they're easy targets for cheap sensationalism.

I welcome your views. Feel free to email me.

Yours,

Paul
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