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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre General Photography Talk 
Thread started 14 Nov 2010 (Sunday) 17:36
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Ethics in Photography (and Videography)

 
nate42nd
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Nov 14, 2010 17:36 |  #1

I had a man collapse just outside my front door today. I did not know the man. He was near the sidewalk. I think he was just out for a walk. After emergency personnel arrived on the scene and I was not needed, I instinctively grabbed my camera and shot some images and video of the emergency personnel trying to resuscitate the man. I believe he was dead the whole time. They worked on him for about 15 minutes and took him away. I decided not to post the images or video on the net. I think I did the right thing. Where does one draw the line? Newspaper photographers do this sort of thing every day. What are the ethics of photography in a case like this?

It's disturbing to see a man die right in front of you. The images in my mind will not go away for some time.


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tonylong
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Nov 14, 2010 18:39 |  #2

Well, let's see -- just to be cut and dry about it, you could say that there are no "universal photography ethics" and so it's up to the individual photog, but there are what you could call "niche ethics" embraced by different markets and publishing "domains" that one can consider.

So, major "respected" news publications will certainly have a "standard" about such photography -- at least in the US, they normally won't publish images of dead Americans and normally not of dead people outside of the US, although there are times when that standard will be briefly suspended if a story warrants it (think Katrina, Haiti, Iran riots).

Then, maybe some of the sensationalistic press that work with paparazzi and cater to a whole different market could have different standards, assuming there was their kind of "news" (some celebrity involved, for instance) being catered to, but I doubt if someone dropping dead on the sidewalk would interest them much...

And then there are the InterWebs where you can likely find a "market" (or at least some interest) in anything that is out-of-normal -- in that crazy world I'd imagine that if you had a gallery filled with images of dead people that it will be checked out with interest by certain people -- now as to whether they'd be fascinated enough to donate to your PayPal account for the privelidge, hmm, who knows...

So, one thing to consider is who are you looking to appeal to and be treated with photographically engendered respect by? If, say, an editor or staff member of a respected publication were to come across your Web site and find you featuring dead people, would they respond by saying "that is a good photographer, let's use him", or would they turn away and surf on and quickly dismiss and forget you?

Recently there was a thread on POTN where this came up -- a member posted such a shot and asked for feedback -- first, was this a "valid" type of photography and second was POTN a place where this type of photography might "find a place?

It got a reasonable discussion around those questions, and then, with the help of a moderator it was "settled" that whatever might be the case for the "world wide venue" that POTN was not a good venue for that type of photography.

So...


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nate42nd
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Nov 14, 2010 19:06 |  #3

Good response. I didn't think there would be any good accomplished by posting the images anywhere. I want my photos to inspire people, but not in a "dark" way. I was just wondering how others (like documentary or news photographers) handle this. It was a bad situation. I almost feel bad about taking them. I just don't have an emergency at my home very often. If then had been me I would not want those images posted anywhere.

Thanks again. Odd situation.


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SOK
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Nov 15, 2010 05:14 as a reply to  @ nate42nd's post |  #4

Question;

How would you feel if someone posted images/video of your father/mother/spouse/c​hild/significant receiving CPR to no avail on a sidewalk?

Personally I cannot see any benefit to anyone from posting - or indeed keeping - those images.


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ecub
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Nov 15, 2010 09:38 |  #5

Personally, I would avoid taking photos of dead or dying people. I think it's too morbid. I want my photos to be artistic and fun. I would have tried to take a shot of the EMT's trying to revive the individual, while trying to make sure I exclude the injured.


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nicksan
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Nov 15, 2010 10:07 |  #6

I wouldn't take photos of someone dying/dead in front of my house "just because", which seems like was the case for you. I think it's in poor taste and serves no purpose. This is my specific feeling about this and it's neither right or wrong.

But then what if you happen to be walking home, you saw this unravel in front of your house, you happen to have a camera with you b/c you are a photo journalist and was coming home from work and you felt compelled to capture the story? Would it be so morbid then? I have no answer for that one...




  
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Nov 15, 2010 10:24 |  #7

Have run into this a bit myself this past week. Our neighbor's/friend's house burned down last Monday. I was home. Spent 8 hours out there, photographing the proceedings. No one was injured, only the cats perished. I posted an album on Facebook and a local news station used (with permission) one of my pictures. It was a 3 alarm blaze and the fire departments asked me for copies of my pictures for their albums at the fire halls. The investigating Fire Prevention Officer also requested all of my images for the official investigation file. This event was what they call a 'good fire'. Residents weren't injured, firemen weren't injured, fire was controlled.
For the most part, the responses I have gotten have been positive - support for the family, praise for the fire departments.
Some people think it's morbid and disrespectful to photograph an event like that.
I did this to document the day and the hard work of these volunteer firemen. Not poking fun at anyone.
I don't know how I would react to seeing a person dead/dying and having a camera in my hand. I certainly would not post them anywhere, but I would hold onto them for awhile. At least because they may be important for an investigation or something.


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AntonLargiader
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Nov 15, 2010 10:27 |  #8

I can totally understand having the instinct to take a photo just because it's an unusual event and hey, there's a camera.

Afterward I would probably realize that there was no purpose served by it (no context in which that photo would be desired) and so it would become a learning experience. Sure, everything is practice and you can learn from every shot, but I think the lesson here would be that there are better ways to practice.


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Daedalus34r
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Nov 15, 2010 10:52 |  #9

just make sure you help the guy out to the extent of your abilities before pulling out the camera.

It sounds like you took a backseat to the EMT pros so i don't see the harm in what you did. But personally i dunno if i would want photos of that scene


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Hecks
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Nov 15, 2010 11:34 |  #10

Photos of dead or dying people are some of the most important photos. It may not be the case here as the story is just personal one between you and the old man. But think about how some photos of the dead have changed the world.


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corkneyfonz
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Nov 15, 2010 11:38 |  #11

On Saturday April 15th 1989, 24,000 Liverpool fans descended upon Sheffield and made their way to Sheffield Wednesday's neutral stadium, Hillsborough for the televised FA Cup semi- final football match against Nottingham Forest. Tragically 96 never returned home.

I watched my parent's TV in disbelief as the tragedy unfolded and the match was officially abandoned after just six minutes of play whilst the unofficial death toll continued to rise.

These shots were taken at Hillsborough, less than 24 hours after so many people had lost their lives in that same area. The biggest shame is that not one person has been held accountable for the tragedy.

24,000 tickets, 23 turnstiles, two grossly overcrowded pens and 96 Liverpool supporters were crushed to death along with 766 people injured. Investigations found that too many gates were opened (allegedly ordered by the police) letting a large throng of fans to stream into an already full to capacity area which surrounded by anti hooligan fencing meant that no one could easily escape .

You'll never walk alone.

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nate42nd
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Nov 15, 2010 11:50 |  #12

AntonLargiader wrote in post #11287573 (external link)
I can totally understand having the instinct to take a photo just because it's an unusual event and hey, there's a camera.

Afterward I would probably realize that there was no purpose served by it (no context in which that photo would be desired) and so it would become a learning experience. Sure, everything is practice and you can learn from every shot, but I think the lesson here would be that there are better ways to practice.

Daedalus34r wrote in post #11287738 (external link)
just make sure you help the guy out to the extent of your abilities before pulling out the camera.

It sounds like you took a backseat to the EMT pros so i don't see the harm in what you did. But personally i dunno if i would want photos of that scene

Hecks wrote in post #11287984 (external link)
Photos of dead or dying people are some of the most important photos. It may not be the case here as the story is just personal one between you and the old man. But think about how some photos of the dead have changed the world.

corkneyfonz wrote in post #11288009 (external link)
On Saturday April 15th 1989, 24,000 Liverpool fans descended upon Sheffield and made their way to Sheffield Wednesday's neutral stadium, Hillsborough for the televised FA Cup semi- final football match against Nottingham Forest. Tragically 96 never returned home.

I watched my parent's TV in disbelief as the tragedy unfolded and the match was officially abandoned after just six minutes of play whilst the unofficial death toll continued to rise.

These shots were taken at Hillsborough, less than 24 hours after so many people had lost their lives in that same area. The biggest shame is that not one person has been held accountable for the tragedy.

24,000 tickets, 23 turnstiles, two grossly overcrowded pens and 96 Liverpool supporters were crushed to death along with 766 people injured. Investigations found that too many gates were opened (allegedly ordered by the police) letting a large throng of fans to stream into an already full to capacity area which surrounded by anti hooligan fencing meant that no one could easily escape .

You'll never walk alone.

http://www.flickr.com …z/sets/72157625​240617236/ (external link)

These are all good points. I did help the guy to the best of my abilities before even thniking about my camera, and even when I did think about taking some pictures it was mostly because I had emergency vehicles and 4-5 police cars at my home. I didn't soom in on the dying man or anything. You can however see the man lying there with his clothing cut off and the emergency worker giving him chest compressions. I don't plan to share these photos with anyone for a long time. I don't regret taking them however.


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Channel ­ One
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Nov 15, 2010 16:11 |  #13

nate42nd wrote in post #11283577 (external link)
Where does one draw the line? Newspaper photographers do this sort of thing every day. What are the ethics of photography in a case like this?

The answer would be of what value are the shots and what good if any would come from the publishing of them.

Often times there are shots published of wars and disasters and many times those who publish them come under fire for doing so being called sensationalists, however I take a different view of such work as in my less than humble opinion doing so reminds those not privy to such horror of the fragility of life and the horror of war. My theory and it is a bit self centered, is, if a photo can make someone think twice before demanding “we send in the Marines” or causes them to open their wallet and help out, the photo was well worth publishing.

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sjones
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Nov 15, 2010 17:27 as a reply to  @ Channel One's post |  #14

Journalists and documentarians have a job, and I reckon you have to ask yourself, do you feel that you have that same job, figuratively if not literally? Yes, media outlets are increasingly relying on the public to provide photos, but under what pretense would you actually be photographing the deceased?

It’s like nicksan noted, what purpose would the photo serve? Obviously, that is for you to decide, but it is an important question when delving into ethically sticky issues, where the line between informative documentation and exploitation is often blurred.

Also, never mind the moral dilemma, what are your interests? For example, I don’t have a strong desire to photograph insects, and likewise, no real passion towards ‘capturing’ dead people. Nor do I feel compelled to photograph ‘events’ simply because they are occurring; but other folks are different.

I shoot candid shots of people on the street. Some find this very act unethical, or at a minimum very rude. I disagree, but I do impose upon myself a set of restrictions, but only on myself.

Ultimately, it’s a personal issue, but as long as you can honestly respect your decision, then you are probably doing the right thing.


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nate42nd
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Nov 15, 2010 19:09 |  #15

WOW. I am impressed wit the responses posted here. I took the photos because I felt it was something that happened at my home and I wanted to remember that day. The photos were taken on my property and I was documenting something which happened here. I'm glad I took them. The video is interesting as well as it shows the events as they unfold.

Keep the insight coming. This is more than I expected. There are some great writers here.


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