Was it ethical?
This critical review of some of my work and asking the question of what is ethical? Discuss the ethics of photographers.
Photographers, old and new.
Kertesz was, in my opinion, a real artist. When viewing his work, it all seems on a higher level than some of the photographers of today. He conducted his life as a professional photographer, as a true gentleman and would not have intentionally put his subjects in a position of ridicule with the use of his images.
Andre Kertesz BBC Master of Photographers
Looking at the image below, the woman looks like a dancer who is doing some reading backstage. Kertesz has noticed this woman and the comical way she is dressed. He has thought about the framing of the picture and taken the shot whilst including some of the detail around the woman, completing the story of the image. She now sits perfectly in context with her surroundings. The images show a delightful young woman backstage. If asked if she was offended in any way, I am sure her answer would have been no. I would imagine that Kertesz was given permission to take the picture, having been allowed to go backstage.
This brings me to my point about Kertesz being at a higher level. In using the camera in a more ethical way than some of today’s photographers. Kertesz exhibited his photographs almost every year from 1927 until 2012 and some years, two or three times all over the world. Not one of his images were judged as unethical. This, of course, could be put down to the style he used in his photography.
There was some criticism towards the image below as Kertesz was known for his street photography and many people said the image was staged and not a true representation of an everyday street scenario. Even if it was a composed image, I don’t think he ever said it wasn’t. Kertesz took several images at the same place over a long period of time.
Jacques Henri Lartigue
Lartigue was of a similar age to Kertesz, therefore, would Kertesz have taken this shot below if he was in the same situation? In a way, it is very similar to Kertesz’ shot above of the woman backstage. It is similar because it was taken without their knowledge, discretely and the focus of the image are fully occupied and framed by their surroundings. They are not removed from that what Kertesz called the” Human Thing.” (Andre Kertesz BBC Master of Photographers)
So, would Kertesz have taken this picture? Probably not. The images that he has taken of nudes are far superior to this, all in collaboration with the models and some were considered to be obese at the time, even in the genre of Art.
Has Lartigue stepped over a boundary in taking the images below? Possibly because he has invaded their private space. On the other hand, their faces are not shown, so they are anonymous, but does this make it ok?
A bord du Dahu II, Royan, Juillet, 1926 Silver gelatin print 30 x 40 cm Edition of 20 (accsessed07/07/2018)
I can only imagine that at the time this shot was taken, it would have been regarded as rude. Was it rude for Lartigue to have taken the image in the first place?
In my opinion, the image is poor. The composition is in question and the image looks like it was made in a hurry. This leads me to think it was taken without the knowledge of the subjects therefore that put the photograph down the scale as far as ethics are concerned. I would call these bad manners. Even though the age of Lartigue was similar to Kertesz, he seems to be a little lower down the scale as far as manners are concerned.
Looking back at how Lartigue images are similar to that of Kertesz, it can be said that they are very humanistic and usually include a woman somewhere in the image. Lartigue’s style is what I would call freestyle or carefree and somehow less refined than Kertesz. They are more in the form of a snapshot than a considered image and a lot of his images seem to be taken in the company of friends and in places where people are enjoying life (see below).
Changing times, add a few years and ethics and opinions change.
Is the image below better or worse as far as ethics go?
Now that we are in the technological age where the youth have been brought up with computers and a mobile phone which is capable of taking any picture they choose then sending it to their friends in seconds and also the almost complete liberation of woman, in the UK at least. I think, in this situation, it changes things from the time of Kertesz.
I don’t think it was unethical to take these images, but I do think it was bad manners. In Dench’s case, I am sure that she wouldn’t have wanted the image published in the way it has been. That is of course if she was part of an unknowing party. If we ask the question that because she is doing something in a public place, do we have every right to capture it? and if yes, should we take the image?
As I am writing this, I am having thoughts of right and wrong and asking myself what Dench has actually done wrong? The only answer I can come up with is nothing really. He has just taken an image of something that is happening in a public place. Recording what life is like for the youth when on holiday. These thoughts are a contradiction of what I was saying earlier about bad manners.
To conclude this first part I will say that having “bad manners” as a photographer is okay because we wouldn’t take anything risky if we bring manners into it and couldn’t show true life situations if every time we stopped and didn’t capture the image. Taking this point of view, you could say that Jacques Henri Lartigue, was ahead of his time.
Digging a Little Deeper into the Ethics of Photography
So far I have only scratched the surface as ethics go and I must admit it is not something that I have put much thought into. On assignment two, my original idea was to show the homeless that live in and around Manchester. I caught the train to Manchester, arriving at Piccadilly train station which is just a short walk to Piccadilly Gardens. I began taking pictures of some of the street people and as soon as I started I had a bad feeling, but I continued anyhow. I did ask some for permission and gave them a pound if they were begging. I got a strong set of pictures, but I still had that feeling as if I was doing something wrong. I am sure if I were a reporter that was being paid for the images, the compensation would have overcome my bad feeling, especially if the pictures were used for the good of the street people.
This brings me to the question “When is it ok to take pictures, even if legal?” I have put my previous feelings to one side for this assignment to try to explain and ask the question.
Was I wrong to not use my original images for Assignment Two because of bad feelings or guilt?
Was I using the homeless in some way?
Would I have been exploiting them?
Is it ok because I am not making any money out of the images?
Is that acceptable or is it still exploitation?
These are the big questions. Not only does it concern me as an individual but there is a lot of criticism aimed at the large humanitarian charities for using the extreme images which only show distress and suffering. Used as leverage to pull on the human heartstrings into giving money to the charity.
The image below was taken with full consent. I give her a couple of pounds, but it still didn’t feel right. I didn’t get any names whilst taking any of the pictures.
The image below is a homeless man having his hair cut by a barber who was doing it for free on the street. This image was taken without consent, and no money was given. There was what looked like television cameramen there, interviewing the homeless. I didn’t feel as bad because they were doing more or less the same as me, but it still didn’t feel right.
The image below was to show the contrast in the haves and the have-nots. I did tell them that I was going to take the picture, but I didn’t offer them any money. I waited until they had relaxed before taking the image and I didn’t feel bad at all taking this image. I think the woman felt worse than me looking at her facial expression.
In conclusion, it is up to the individual taking the images if they think it is right or wrong as long it is legal. What the images are used for is a big consideration.
In my research, I came across Anastasia Taylor-Lind
“It impossible to get to where the crimes are being committed, other than on highly staged and controlled state tours.” (British Journal of photography issue 7867 2018)
Lind decided to approach the subject from a different angle. Finding and taking the pictures of people that had come through the torment of war and forced expulsion from their home. Showing the strong, dignified people that they are, not showing them at their lowest ebb of despair, with sorrow but also with strength, dignity and with full consent.
I can’t see how using photography in this way could be seen as exploitation. It seems to be a new approach as far as documenting where war and forced expulsion are concerned. Removing them from their distress and showing them as human beings is a refreshing way to show the people and then add their stories, showing them as survivors.
(British Journal of photography issue 7867 2018)
Omayra Sánchez Garzón, Below
When I came across this image whilst researching various photographers, I was distraught to find out that the girl in the image died shortly after it was captured. She had been trapped there for three days before she passed. Obviously, I wasn’t there, but as I have been discussing ethics in this review I couldn’t pass this one by and wanted to ask, once again, was it ethical to take this picture?
The photographer was awarded the World Press Photo of the Year for 1986. It is easy for me to think I wouldn’t or couldn’t take this picture as I am sat here because I don’t know the whole circumstances. I would like to think that I would be too busy trying to get her free than having the time to take photographs. That is easy to say, and when I think about it, I don’t know if I would be a help or a hindrance. I ask myself, has it helped anyone or helped in preventing this from happening again?
By showing the image, who have benefited from its publication? Did it generate and motivate people and charities to help in the aftermath of the volcano?
When I viewed the image below, I felt every emotion and especially when I read she was there for three days before she passed away.
Below quotes by Don McCullin
Don McCullin – “You need to get over the moral aspect of photography. If you can’t, don’t be there. The most important thing is to get great images that influence change” (bbc Hard talk 8/10/2015 accessed 11/08/2018)
((By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=366Frank Fournier2559)(accessed 30/8/18)
“Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures. “- Don McCullin, Sleeping With Ghosts: A Life’s Work in Photography by Don McCullin (Photographer), Mark Haworth-Booth (Introduction), Donald McCullin , ISBN: 0893816590 , Page: 96(accessed 03/08/18)
I have found the image above one of the most moving images I have ever seen. Don McCullin didn’t take this picture, but I thought his quote was fitting.
In conclusion to the above. When deciding if you should be capturing an image I have come up with the following. What is the reason am I taking the image? Can I rationalise it as being a good reason? Is the subject of the image going to be, or possibly be, affected in a good or bad way or neither? What is the image going to be used for? Is the subject so bad that I will regret taking the image in the future?
In the end, the stories need to be told and the images need to be taken therefore someone has to do it and as long as you do it with good intentions, even if you need to make money with the images, then I think our conscience is clear. Was I wrong not using my original images for assignment two? After applying what I have learned whilst completing this assignment, I can say yes I was wrong. The assignment has put things into perspective, making me challenge my soft approach to some of the ethical issues in photography.
Still on the subject of ethics. Below is an image that was manipulated by the photographer Brian Walski. He was a former staff photographer for the Los Angeles Times and the image was sent to the newspaper and was consequently run and used by three newspapers until the image was found to be a composite of two images. Consequently, the photographer was fired by the newspaper and lost his credentials to work as a photographer for a publication again. The director of photography for the Los Angeles Times, Colin Crawford, was horrified by the image manipulation done by Walski, apparently.
There have been a lot of images that are changed in photoshop and some very minor changes have had severe consequences for the photographer. Just changing the tone of an image and improving the detail with dodge and burn have resulted in award-winning photographers losing their jobs.
Narciso Contreras recently lost his job for removing a video camera that was visible in the bottom left-hand corner of an image of a Syrian rebel.
From this, we can conclude that the newspapers are taking the photography standards very seriously indeed and want to be represented as being ethical when reporting and documenting a story with images. Newspaper companies issue stringent guidelines that only minimal lightning or darkening of an image is acceptable i.e if under or overexposed.
Whether these photographers should have lost their job or not is debatable, but the fact remains that some newspapers/magazines do use images that they know have been edited or actually do the editing themselves. I am not sure whether the newspaper companies that have sacked the photographers for manipulation of an image are only doing so when caught by an outside party. I think we can say that the higher end newspapers and magazines are trying to maintain some ethical responsibility and as mentioned earlier, do have very strict guidelines.
Image above by Keven Carter
When viewing an image, we automatically come to conclusions that are based on assumptions running through our minds at the time of viewing without really finding out the facts. The image above was deemed unethical by some critics, basing their criticism on the image alone. You can see their point if you believe that the child is still alive and not going to receive any help. As I understand it, the child was not alone, and the parents were just out of shot whilst receiving aid from the relieve truck. It is believed the child survived. In this instance, the image was ethical and probably helped others in their situation by narrating the need for help.
In conclusion regarding ethics, manners and good taste. The first question, should you be taking the image? If at the time you consider the image as ethical and will help in the narrative if it is not against the law and won’t damage the reputation of the subject then capture the picture.
You could ask yourself “If this was my Gran, would she mind?” If the answer is yes then don’t take the picture. If you are on the street and zoom in through a window to a room and someone is getting some personal attention should you take the image? The answer is clearly no it’s not ethical or in good taste. Ask your Gran if you don’t believe me.
If you zoom in to a large window and people are standing there on purpose with no clothes on and obviously having some fun showing the outside world, should you take the picture? Yes, they have clearly given up their right to privacy by parading themselves in the window. It is however still bad manners and could be against the law. I think how the images are used would be the deciding factor.
This was for me quite a difficult assignment, I decided on ethics in Photography not really knowing much about it as far as the photojournalist was concerned. I chose it because on a previous assignment, I had reservations about using some of the images I had taken, I wanted to investigate my own feelings and the opinions of the industry. What I have found is that the newspapers are not always truthful in the images they show and have a very flexible standard as far as ethics are concerned. As mentioned earlier some photographers have been dismissed from newspapers for removing clutter in the shot while others have not for doing similar things. I will try to be objective and do the right thing when deciding whether to take the picture. I think in the end it is what the image is to be used for that matters the most. and I now know how poor my English is.
The idea for assignment five
(People of Stalybridge that had relatives that worked in the cotton mills)
I have abandoned this Idea. and restarted the Assignment called Abandonment. Looking into things that seem abandoned usually buildings.