Photojournalism – Integrity is everything!

Photojournalism – Integrity is everything!

We are all used to seeing graphic images of news from around the world of the stories unfolding around us and we all find it important. We have become a nation that digests information in seconds but what does that mean? Does that mean we accept what we see on the face of it? Quite often yes!

Reuters recently issued a statement and a policy change that has left photojournalists talking….

I’d like to pass on a note of request to our freelance contributors due to a worldwide policy change.. In future, please don’t send photos to Reuters that were processed from RAW or CR2 files. If you want to shoot raw images that’s fine, just take JPEGs at the same time. Only send us the photos that were originally JPEGs, with minimal processing (cropping, correcting levels, etc).

So what does this mean? Well in short probably not much for us. What Reuters are attempting to do is eliminate any question about the images being legitimate. Minimal modification and no adjustment will mean that the images we’re seeing on mass-media will be more indicative of whats actually happening.

For the photographer this means that they’ll have to naturally capture the moment and not rely on retouching or manipulation techniques to get the most out of their image. By shooting and submitting in JPEG the photographer has a much more finite amount of ‘play’ with the editing, this could be good! Working with RAW means an extra step which may not be needed if the news is breaking and the shots are telling the story. On the other had you’re limited. What Reuters have gone to say is “..shoot RAW and JPEG but keep the RAW for you and submit the JPEG to us..”

The pretence appears to be on speed on submission with Reuters focussing on the “.. ease of working with JPEG..” but I suspect a certain amount of reason for the change comes to unscrupulous photographers editorialising our news, this isn’t good!

This leads me to this heart breaking shot by Nathan Weber taken after the Haitian earthquake.

Used with permission © Nathan Webber
Photo by Nathan Weber, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. January 19, 2010
Fourteen photographers stood over the body of Fabienne Cherisma, just moments after she had been shot by police on January 19, 2010, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. As they adjusted camera settings and framed images of the young girl’s corpse, looters went through her pockets to steal what they could before her father arrived. Haiti’s massive earthquake had taken tens of thousands of lives that January, but the pictures of Fabienne struck a chord: she became an icon of Haiti’s desperation, and two of the photographers were awarded prizes for their work. Two months after the incident, photojournalist Nathan Weber released an image he’d originally taken as “an afterthought.” It showed his colleagues at work, photographing Fabienne’s body.
By the time the picture was released, the flood of graphic images from Haiti’s catastrophe had become increasingly unsettling for its audience. Brendan Gormley, chief executive of the UK Disasters Emergency Committee, had spoken out against “disaster pornography”: gratuitous images of suffering. And Haitians had begun stoning photojournalists in protest, according to UK aid worker Ishbel Matheson. “People said we looked like a bunch of vultures,” says Weber. Even though grouping together is common for photographers in dangerous situations, many in the international photo-
journalist community were unhappy with having “their laundry aired in public.” Still, Weber insists there is nothing to be ashamed of: “This is how people find out about things. You can only see the image that we let you see. If it wasn’t for people going out and getting that photograph then we’d all be in the dark.”

These images sparked debates about photography ethics and whether or not these guy are morally abject (read more here). Whilst the images are harrowing the moral judgement should be reserved for those who staged the body for, as it appears, the photographic community. You can view a selection of these images via the Colors Magazine pay attention to the position of Fabienne’s body. You can tell she has been moved somewhat before the photographers arrive fully.

Like all media agencies Reuters are keen to maintain their standards and this move away from ‘highly-editable’ photos may help in future. Nobody wants to see fake news, incorrect news, doctored  news, or anything similar! The world is too scary for embellishment, especially at the expense of the victims.

What do you think?