I have been a photojournalist type of photographer for over 40 years now. I don't have an artistic bone in my body. I just like to capture events and tell stories through my images.
That is why the recent debate about the National Geographic photographer who took the Afghan Girl photo is interesting here. I wanted to have a broader discussion on it though. I get why the other thread was shut down... not interested in anyones personal politics.... but it is still a topic worth having. At the heart of the discussion on Tony's video blog was if the photo was honest, and its impact on a young girl. Was the act of photographing her "abusive".
What I find particularly interesting is two points.
1) Is shooting someones photo without their consent "abusive", particularly if they feel uncomfortable. I ran into this personally. I was working on a freelance project for Conde Nest while I lived in Seattle and they wanted some stock images of the area. At one point I was at a park on lake washington where kids were playing. Some of the mothers not knowing who I was became concerned and had the park ranger talk to me. I presented my credentials, he understood, but we agreed that I would come back when the park wasn't so full of kids to do the shoot at another time. I was not offended, a bit miffed I had to come back, but as a dad, I understood. I love street photography... and so I am confident that not everyone in the image wants to be in the image. In Florida I was yelled at by a man that thought I was photographing him. I walked over to him, showed him that he was incidentally to the image, and he was ok with it after. I have had people wave me off, and I accepted that. But honestly I have thousands of images of people whom have landed in my images that don't know they are their, and probably would prefer they were not. So where is the line there?
2) Fixing photos. Cameras have come a long way, but they still don't reproduce the same as the eye sees them. Every photo needs help getting to that point. To what point you can "fix" what the camera got wrong is an interesting debate. In certain cases, the answer is a clear nothing - or was nothing. The integrity of the photo is essential. And yet no shot is 100% honest. Through cropping we selectively show the scene. Through processing also shapes perception - best example of that is the OJ Simpson trial photos that were identical expect in processing, one much darker than the other. It obviously had a different tone to it, but photographically it was an "honest" representation. Every photo produced has a bias behind it from the photographer.
And that is what has me so perplexed by Tony Northrop's video. It seems he was acting surprised at how that image was created, and alluded to the fact that the image wasn't honest, and was almost abusive. Just about every journalistic image is an invasion into someone else's life. Almost every photograph needs to be "fixed" so it matches the photographers perception of those events - either by fixing photo dynamics - in processing - or in cropping. So there is a good debate needed about in today's world, what is an honest image. Is raising highlights and dropping shadows to hid the background making an image dishonest? Is having a mother hold a picture of her deceased son a dishonest image. She surely is grief stricken... is posing the image so that aspect highlighted or communicated dishonest.
Anyway, something to chew on. I would love to have a discussion about this - al be it a civil discussion I'm not sure there is a definitive answer here....