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Business / Philosophy of Photography Taking pics is one thing, but understanding why we take them, what they mean, what they are best used for, how they effect our reality -- all of these and more are important issues of the Philosophy of Photography. One of the best authors on the subject is Susan Sontag in her book "On Photography."

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Old 08-13-2010   #121
Roger Hicks
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Some editors are geniuses.

Quite a few aren't.

It's a bit like "Those who can, do."

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R.
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Old 08-13-2010   #122
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The last moments of someone's life are significant. I fail to see how taking a picture of these moments is any different than say the first moments when we come in the world. I've done both and many moments in between in my time as a photographer. It's kind of sad when the do-gooders of the world impose their own sense of morality on a photographer's choices. You don't like it? Fine. Then don't look. No one is forcing you.

This issue is not about professional and amateur photography. Photographers of all sorts have a history of photographing and showing the human condition. While sad and not something everyone wants to see, someone dying is part of that condition. I don't see the moral issue.

To the people attempting to dictate what is right and wrong for the rest of us, thanks but no thanks. I'll decide for myself.
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Old 08-13-2010   #123
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Quote:
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Untrained amateurs?

What sort of TRAINING (as distinct from education) have most journalists historically received, apart from on-the-job?

Journalism college is a recent and self-defeating invention. We ALL start(ed) out as amateurs.

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R.
You said it yourself. On-the-job. It's useful.
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Old 08-13-2010   #124
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Unlike the intrepid professionals whose reporting is generally inaccurate, incomplete, or falsified. Not (usually) because of quaint things like political bias but because--shock of all shocks--they're of the same species as the amateurs. Some are competent, many others are ignorant, stupid, lazy, or venal.
Do you have any facts to back up these pronouncements?
I though not...
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Old 08-13-2010   #125
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Bottom line: in a free society, we can photograph whatever we want in public. If we have poor taste, or poor skills, or lack a good editor, then so be it. We have the right to photograph in public. And keep in mind, that just because we snap a photo in a public place, that doesn't mean the photo will ever see the light of day, outside of the photographer's possession. If you walk up and tell me I should NOT have taken the photo, then that's your right also. But your opinion doesn't trump my right to make phptos. And for that matter, don't assume I will have the poor taste to pass it around to chaps at the pub. You have no idea what my intentions are.
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Old 08-13-2010   #126
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You and I have had this discussion before. Feel free to refer back to it for further detail. It's true that I might have a hard time backing up my particular pronouncement--that journalists are of the human species. You still haven't offered any precious facts to support the idea that "trained journalists" are magic. I won't be waiting for your reply, trust me.
Not magic. Just better qualified.
End of.
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Old 08-13-2010   #127
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Bottom line: in a free society, we can photograph whatever we want in public. If we have poor taste, or poor skills, or lack a good editor, then so be it. We have the right to photograph in public. And keep in mind, that just because we snap a photo in a public place, that doesn't mean the photo will ever see the light of day, outside of the photographer's possession. If you walk up and tell me I should NOT have taken the photo, then that's your right also. But your opinion doesn't trump my right to make phptos. And for that matter, don't assume I will have the poor taste to pass it around to chaps at the pub. You have no idea what my intentions are.
Hi Dan; I try to be careful of what's in the finder these days..
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Old 08-14-2010   #128
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Originally Posted by Lilserenity View Post
Not in a million years would I do this, and if I saw someone doing it I would probably go out of my way to shove them away and out of the scene.

I'm sure someone will disagree but I've got my opinion, you've got yours, time to suck it up.

For me these people crossed a very defined boundary in my view of ethics and I struggle to find an explanation of what would cross into somebody's mind to think taking a photo of a dying person who committed suicide is a OK thing to do.

Vicky
Your welcome to your opinion, but assualting others because you don't agree with what they're doing is just as wrong.

As to the original question, I don't see any difference to taking pictures as to those that stand and watch. I'd either help or move along if I could not.
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Old 08-14-2010   #129
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Every precise situation is different, and without having been there, it's hard to tell... The only reason I can imagine for documenting such scene after offering all possible help, would be being the only photographer there, and honestly considering such image would help the world more than hurt people. I don't know if I would be able to do it as I hate suffering and death too much...

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Old 08-18-2010   #130
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I've always believed that the moment a person is dying is a very personal, sacred moment that another person shouldn't even see. Unless, of course, they're family. Never ever view images or videos for amusement or curiosity. When the beheading videos from Iraq were circulating during the war, I never wanted to see them. I have a friend that watched the first one on line and said he didn't feel right for several days afterward. He told me he wished he had never watched the video.

Life is sacred. God help us if we don't realize that now.

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Old 09-02-2010   #131
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newspaperguy View Post
That said, there's a huge difference between someone shooting for a living, someone who has to be there, and some looky-loo with a cell phone and a gore complex.
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Originally Posted by photogdave View Post
Journalists have MANY essential qualities bloggers don't have: education, experience, resources, editors to check your work...
This.

Unfortunatly the world is not a nice happy place like many would love it to be, its a hard unhappy place where people die and where there is rape, murder and torture going on everyday.

A journalist has the job of interpreting that world and bringing it to peoples attention in a compassionate way, and thats the difference between someone snapping a pic on their camera phone to show their friends and laugh about how they have a pic of a dead girl, and a journalist who will place the photo in context of a story or a moral or a informative article.

Its not the taking of the photo, its how it is used, and thats what sets a working photographer apart from someone making a macabre holiday snap. Big difference.

Unfortunatly everyone these days wants to be happy in their own world and not have the atrocities of the world brought to their attention, that is what is destroying photojournalism.
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Old 09-02-2010   #132
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The dimensions of what is sacred is not bounded by what is reasonable. Without reason, which sacred law will determine when reverence is required? Yours? Mine? All of them? One that most of us can agree with?

And with that choice made, what happens to those that "cross the line" and "harm" the sensibilities of others? Censure? Caning? Stoning? Re-education/Sensitivity Training?
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Old 09-11-2010   #133
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could it be that photography isn't so special but the last few moments of a persons life are? why not allow them their dignity
Exactly. I think there's some basic issues of respect and empathy involved here. Glad to see there's others who feel the same.
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Old 09-11-2010   #134
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after 40 years of watching humans, and almost 20 of browsing internet fora, i can't help thinking that most of the oh-i-would-never crowd would actually,
  • shoot
  • kick themselves for leaving the camera at home
  • kick themselves for not having the balls to shoot
we are what we are, so? it's not the shooting that makes you a scumbag. it's not reaching out to help whenever you're not shooting. you won't become a saint, or even a morally upright respectable citizen, because of a once-in-a-blue-moon impulse--it takes a lifetime of hard work. shoot what you want. post what you want. but then go out and help. today. now

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Old 09-11-2010   #135
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I see the issue as one of simple humanity.
If you could give comfort and don't (because you are busy taking a picture) - then you lose points on my humanity meter
If you take a picture, thinking "this is rear gory, my friends won't believe it, I'm gonna post it on the Internet", then again you lose points in my book.
If you take a photo, and it has some redeeming emotion or purpose, in this case perhaps to somehow deter or prevent suicides, then maybe you have a good reason.
if you're just a voyeur, and this is an entertaining scene for you, or has some paparazzi commercial value, again you go down on my humanity meter.
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Old 09-11-2010   #136
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Originally Posted by marcr1230 View Post
If you take a photo, and it has some redeeming emotion or purpose, in this case perhaps to somehow deter or prevent suicides, then maybe you have a good reason.
This is what you should be thinking if you stop to take the photo.
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Old 09-11-2010   #137
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If you take a photo, and it has some redeeming emotion or purpose, in this case perhaps to somehow deter or prevent suicides, then maybe you have a good reason.
This is what you should be thinking if you stop to take the photo.
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Old 09-11-2010   #138
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does anyone really think that a photograph of a person who has just killed themselves is actually going to deter another suicidal person from ending their own life.
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Old 09-11-2010   #139
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As for this being journalism: would any newspaper run suicide pictures these days? They did at one time, but not anymore.
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Old 09-11-2010   #140
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As for this being journalism: would any newspaper run suicide pictures these days? They did at one time, but not anymore.
Newspapers? Nope, magazines, NGO's, local awareness groups, yes most definintly. Perhaps less stateside and the UK but definintly other parts of the world. German and French mag's and periodicals of various sorts are still willing to publish hard hitting stories as lng as they are presented in context and with a serious message behind them.

And yes when presentaed as part of a story raising awareness of suicide prevention the image may lead to greater knowledge of a suicide support group in the public mind, thus someone may go to that group when they are feeling suicidal and may not take their life.
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Old 09-11-2010   #141
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i talked a guy off the bridge once...do i get humanity points?

i once helped an ambulance attendant at a car/motorcycle accident, it was very gory...do i get extra humanity points for that?

most days, i deal with drunks and junkies and over a long career have helped many to dry up or quit shooting up...lots of points?

can i take a few shots of street people now? or a dying young girl?
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Old 09-11-2010   #142
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i talked a guy off the bridge once...do i get humanity points?

i once helped an ambulance attendant at a car/motorcycle accident, it was very gory...do i get extra humanity points for that?

most days, i deal with drunks and junkies and over a long career have helped many to dry up or quit shooting up...lots of points?
i hear it only counts if you don't tell anybody...
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Old 09-11-2010   #143
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guess i'm no saint...
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Old 09-11-2010   #144
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saint or not, don't quit what you're doing
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Old 09-11-2010   #145
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does anyone really think that a photograph of a person who has just killed themselves is actually going to deter another suicidal person from ending their own life.
Absolutely not and I can tell you that from personal experience. Nothing sacred about death either...
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Old 09-11-2010   #146
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Coming back to the original incident, the question is about giving comfort or coming to the aid of someone about to shuffle off this mortal coil (the manner of it is a secondary consideration), over against taking a photograph of the damage that has been done to a human being. I would suggest that someone taking a record shot for personal use on their mobile phone may not be acting in a quite the same way as some of the previous posters have described who clearly have done it as part of their work. <on soapbox> Personally, that was someones child there, and if it had been mine i would want the last people who saw her to acknowledge her humanity instead of treating her as an object to be recorded. </off soapbox>
Incidentally, thinking about some of the reflections from folk who have taken such photographs in the course of work, I did a piece of work drawing parallels between PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder) in Military Personnel and in War (or Trauma) Photographers. A group in the USA did proper research on this [A study published in the “American Journal of Psychiatry 159:9” (September 2002) by Feinstein, Owen and Blair was entitled ‘’A Hazardous Profession: War, Journalists and Psychopathology”.] but that is the only piece of work dealing with the issue.
For those of you in that place, two things - firstly, it is your humanity and your professionalism that gives voice through your photography to the pain of others. Thus your humanity will be effected by what you see, precisely because you want to get it 'right'. Secondly, find someone you can voice some of your experience to - because no matter how self sufficient and self reliant you are in this sort of stuff no-one is an island.
Sorry if I've gone on too much, but sometimes we do neglect the personal cost of being there and in my work I deal with many who say 'it couldn't happen to me'.
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Old 09-11-2010   #147
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No. There are professionals who do that as their job. I'm not one of them. There are bystanders do that just because they can. I'm not one of them.
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Old 09-11-2010   #148
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My dad specialized in suicide prevention. When I was eleven, about 8pm at night, I answered the phone and it was for my Dad. Gave it to him, and found out later that the college student had the phone in one hand and a gun pointed at his head in the other. Good thing Dad knew what he was doing. Talked the Kid out of it, and went over to meet up with him.

Maybe if more people saw the aftermath of their actions, they would reconsider. But I would not be able to photograph the incident.
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Old 09-11-2010   #149
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Haven't read the whole thing. Agree with the coroner. Has anyone asked what might be the thought process in the head of the bystanders with their mobile phone cameras? Doubt it's anything lofty. Might be instinct, with the means so close to hand, but a base instinct. Dreadful things bring out the best and the worst in others. Is anyone really doubting which this is?
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Old 09-11-2010   #150
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i would, assuming i wasn't the first person on the scene and an ambulance was on its way. the authorities, relatives, or newspaper may find photographic records helpful for one reason or another. it may not be tasteful, but it's the right thing to do.
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Old 09-11-2010   #151
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I don't shoot the homeless nor people dying in the streets. Anymore taboos?
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Old 09-14-2010   #152
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It seems to me that there is a perceived moral high ground achieved by not shooting certain subjects. To each his own. Perhaps it's my PJ background and the fact that I have photographed people who were dying and much other horrible **** that makes me think it's really a case of how it's done as much as what is done.

I know that for me, for some time now, the camera and lens raised up to my eye give me a sense of ... detachment.
And I gladly let my concerns for technical matters like composition, focus, exposure ...OO be in the forefront, so I don't become emotionally involved. I'm not saying this is right, I'm just saying this is how it's done. Or at least how I have done it.
None of that stops the inevitable weight of the event at a later date.

A traffic collision involving a small boy who died comes to mind. It didn't hit me until years later, watching my son sleeping in his bed. He is now the same size and age of the little boy whose limp white corpse was given CPR by the passenger in my car.

Even though it was several years ago, I literally dropped to my knees and wept. You can put up walls and delay the fallback all you want. As members of the human race, witnessing these kinds of things affects us and never leaves us. I'm not a stone. I feel deeply for the suffering of our fellow men/women and children.

It's one thing to see a picture of something, it's another to be there in person.

The other thing some people may not realize is when you're in the heat of the moment and the situation is happening in real time, you often don't know what you're shooting. You just do. And while it's easy to be all high and mighty, like a Monday quarterback, it's a different deal when you're in the pocket, so to speak.
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Old 10-17-2010   #153
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It's repulsive to see when some people have a camera around there neck they all of a sudden think they are James Nachwey, and want to act in that way.
Being in Varanassi, India, at the burning ghats tourists are moving around between the burning remains of people, and take pictures of greeving relatives. I find it sickening to do that for a holiday-picture. It shows an alarming lack of empathy.
Tourists/non-prof photographers should know theire place, and not forget their humane duty just because they have a camera around there neck
Photograpers who do shoot these things for a proffessional reason , most of the time get sooner or later some sort of setback by there experiances.
See the docu "Shooting Robert King"
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Old 10-17-2010   #154
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i was in a protest that turned violent. i was standing just behind the place where a crowd of protesters were facing off with riot police... there was not much happening where i was standing and the crowd was too thick in front of me to move in where the action was.

suddenly i see this young guy, probably 16-17, limping towards me carried by two other people. and then i noticed that his head was bleeding and his hair was wet with blood. he had turned completely pale and seemed in shock... instinctively i kept shooting, and i did not feel "anything". i was rather happy to have got the "opportunity". i kept taking shots and i was not the only one, even common people were taking his photo with their P&S cameras. then the news guys rushed in with their cameras and i found myself shooting from the top of him one handed because the place had got crowded... Suddenly i hear this guy saying, "look at these vultures, f'n vultures...", as he said that it struck me, i then realized what i was doing and i did not feel angry or anything at him, i knew that guy was right and I was a vulture at that instance.

I felt like ****. I always had a rather high-minded opinion of photography but right there I saw myself as just another vulture with a camera, preying on the pain and suffering of some kid. i wondered what if the kid was my brother or son... then...

Anyway, that was a good lesson. From that day on I knew what I did not want to photograph: war, violence and any other sensational PJ staples. I did have the stomach for it, rather disturbingly to my own shock, but I won't do it even if it means making a lot of money from it. for one I'm not naive enough to think photos of suffering can change the world, secondly I just feel no affinity and sense of camaraderie with PJs, with all do respect. Nachtwey takes photos of some war crime victims, posts it in a gallery where he gets patted on the back, people drink white wine and look at his photos and its all, "well-done" and "good job" - i find that absolutely obscene.

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Old 10-17-2010   #155
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come now, you appear to have no understanding of Mr. Nachtwey's intentions. to indentify his, or others, work as 'Turning Leaf time' sans any real dialogue with the man is nothing more than projection.

i am fine with you wanting to define yourself as a noble and morally stout individual however i would caution you against the blind assumptions.

i will avoid all 'i remember when' stories and only say this, i have spent time in a war zone and i assure you the experience has made me determined to return.

photos of suffering and conflict HAVE changed the world. over and over and over again. i highly recommend Paul Watson's book on covering war to fully understand the disconnect between official reports and the reality on the ground in many conflicts.
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Old 10-18-2010   #156
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I felt like ****. I always had a rather high-minded opinion of photography but right there I saw myself as just another vulture with a camera, preying on the pain and suffering of some kid. i wondered what if the kid was my brother or son... then...

Anyway, that was a good lesson. From that day on I knew what I did not want to photograph: war, violence and any other sensational PJ staples. I did have the stomach for it, rather disturbingly to my own shock, but I won't do it even if it means making a lot of money from it. for one I'm not naive enough to think photos of suffering can change the world, secondly I just feel no affinity and sense of camaraderie with PJs, with all do respect. Nachtwey takes photos of some war crime victims, posts it in a gallery where he gets patted on the back, people drink white wine and look at his photos and its all, "well-done" and "good job" - i find that absolutely obscene.
You do not understand photojournalism then. Its about telling a story to the world that the world would not give a crap about otherwise. Nachtweys work gets published in magazines and newspapers where people see the destruction and horror that war relly is, its not something that is seen from the nose cam of a cruise missile or on a graphic on CNN, its raw its horrible and its one of the most horrifiying experiences on the planet.

When people realise what its actually like, what the amftermath of war and famine is like, they are removed from their happy little surburban lifestyle and brought to the reality of life for millions of people around the world. And it (Hopefully) changes their attitude, maybe they will dontate to a charity maybe they will vote differently, maybe they will pressure their senator to change his voting habits. And slowly the attitude of a country changes, and war becomes less acceptable. And people are alive today because of photos that changed public perception.

Check out these links for photos, single photos captured in a single moment of time that changed the course of wars and countries. But photos that in some cases were so hard to take and took so much sacrifice from the photographer in order to come to terms with showing the world by being there, it was the end of their lives.

http://pinguy.infogami.com/blog/vwm6

http://www.uniquescoop.com/2009/09/p...ged-world.html

http://brainz.org/10-war-photographs...world-forever/

The world is a horrible place at times, and we live in a suburban heaven compared to most of the people on this planet. We need to be shown the reality of living in the rest of the world, so that we can appreciate what we have, and maybe gain some huminilty that is sadly lacking from our society these days.
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Old 10-18-2010   #157
chrismoret
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Just to be on the safe side...

I'm a big admirer of the journalistic kind of photography. People like James Nachtwey and so have opened a lot of eyes with theire work and made beautifull work under the most dangerous conditions.

They all have my deepest sympathy and respect.
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Old 10-18-2010   #158
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emraphoto & JayGannon:


Mr. Nachtwey has all the best intentions in the world. I admire his determination, even though what he does is the dream of many, so we can't say his unlucky. However, if it was not for the documentary War Photographer, he won't be as famous as his right now. It was that documentary, which turned him from a pretty good PJ to some sort of heroic figure with a camera. That says more about Hollywoodization of global culture than Mr. Nachtwey's true claim to fame.

But what a lot of people missed in that documentary was the irony and cynicism which came through. For example editors looking at Nachtwey's pictures and saying, "that pile of bodies are "fantastic", lets use it in double spread, thats "great"... Nachtwey chasing a mob who're playing with some dude before they kill him. Apparently he begs for the guy's life but nevertheless provides a witness to the frenzied mob, inevitably exciting them even more since they keep posing with the corps for him.

Anyway, video is a more credible and no nonsense method of documentation of suffering, atrocities and so on for wider information. videos through news channels and youtube gets the widest audience, without being hanged in galleries, dodged and burned for effect and sold at large sums... how could one sell the misery of others? that question is not for me to answer.

Classic photojournalism is dead long ago, I won't go into that argument here but I would say that even if not a single still PJ visit a situation there will be videos and still shots by cameras of local people informing the rest of the world... There is no need for PJs anymore, and whenever I see these dudes with their two large DSLRs and poker faces running around i see endangered species.

I'd rather be a neurotic Winogrand or Moriyama walking around streets and photographing boring stuff rather than go to some war and try to "inform" the rest of the world. Inform of them of what? of what is already on youtube and every other media source on the net?
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Old 10-18-2010   #159
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ebino View Post
emraphoto & JayGannon:


Mr. Nachtwey has all the best intentions in the world. I admire his determination, even though what he does is the dream of many, so we can't say his unlucky. However, if it was not for the documentary War Photographer, he won't be as famous as his right now. It was that documentary, which turned him from a pretty good PJ to some sort of heroic figure with a camera. That says more about Hollywoodization of global culture than Mr. Nachtwey's true claim to fame.

But what a lot of people missed in that documentary was the irony and cynicism which came through. For example editors looking at Nachtwey's pictures and saying, "that pile of bodies are "fantastic", lets use it in double spread, thats "great"... Nachtwey chasing a mob who're playing with some dude before they kill him. Apparently he begs for the guy's life but nevertheless provides a witness to the frenzied mob, inevitably exciting them even more since they keep posing with the corps for him.

Anyway, video is a more credible and no nonsense method of documentation of suffering, atrocities and so on for wider information. videos through news channels and youtube gets the widest audience, without being hanged in galleries, dodged and burned for effect and sold at large sums... how could one sell the misery of others? that question is not for me to answer.

Classic photojournalism is dead long ago, I won't go into that argument here but I would say that even if not a single still PJ visit a situation there will be videos and still shots by cameras of local people informing the rest of the world... There is no need for PJs anymore, and whenever I see these dudes with their two large DSLRs and poker faces running around i see endangered species.

I'd rather be a neurotic Winogrand or Moriyama walking around streets and photographing boring stuff rather than go to some war and try to "inform" the rest of the world. Inform of them of what? of what is already on youtube and every other media source on the net?

Jim was famous way before the documentary. Way way before it. There is now a middle class of the 1st world who think that they have all the answers, that they have the right to say what and what should not be documented and in what manner.

Come spend a weekend with me in Manilla or in Georgia and you would feel so different, it would jolt you out of the complacency that has led the planet to be so uncaring for their fellow humans. Begging for someones life to be spared is the epitome of empathy and he was very much risking his own skin by doing so, it was most certainly not done 'for the camera'

The 24 hour news cycle has created a generation where suffering is something that can be shooed away by changing the channel. Noone can comment on the atrocity of famine or the horror of war until they have seen it or the afttermath of it. And that is what photographers try to do, to allow people to experience that without having to be there, we travel to the places where noone else will go in order to bring the reality of the world to suburban america/england/france/germany.

One does not sell the misery of others, one attempts to tell the story of the world forgotten, the world that does ont fit into the life view of the general population of the world anymore, one where life is hard and terrible things happen. That is what photojouralists do, and will continue to do, for it is one of the most important things that can come out of conflict, a desire to not allow it to happen again. TO let the world know what is happening in the dark corners of the world where Fox/CNN can't tell a 24 hour news story, the story of the people of Haiti who have been forgotten by the world already, the Gulf where noone is reportting on it anymore. This is where the story must continue to be told by people better than the networks, by journalists who want to make things better. Who want to educate. To enlighten and to change the way things work. And rarely, they do, and it makes the whole dirty horrible thing worthwhile.

Last edited by JayGannon : 10-18-2010 at 11:53. Reason: Personnel Attack
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Old 10-18-2010   #160
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I can see why the notion of a typical wine sipping 'creative society and their patrons' commercial gallery opening of photography documenting suffering is a hugely uncomfortable fit. But then again, in a PJ's case, the 'good job' being 'awarded' might not a sick voyeurism, but a recognition of the work done by the PJ to bring some uncomfortable truths to light.

There's a reason that governments hate unauthorized photos of their wars and repression, or why the Canadian government has made taking photos of baby seal killing illegal.
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