Doing Ethics Is Too Difficult? Then Do Something Else

Another day and another photojournalist in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

In the case of Poulomi Basu, as much as I could surmise from others’ posts, the crux of the problem was with some of the captions. But NYT also have some additional info.

At the end of the Editors’ Note (April 17, 2017), which can be found at the end of this link:

“Another image, of Saraswati being taken to a hospital on a stretcher, did not mention that the photographer and an associate paid for the stretcher. Had editors known this, the image would not have been used.”

I agreed mostly with the caption part but the stretcher episode troubles me because I don’t think it is always so clear cut when it comes to ‘involvement’.

– Did Poulomi and her associate pay to get the pictures or was this a life/death situation in which the storyteller chooses to be a human first, photographer later?

– Does Poulomi feel/know that with or without paying for the stretcher, the subjects will still grant her continued access?

– If Poulomi had declared that to the editors before publication, can/should the picture still be published with the disclosure?

– If you are working on a long-term project and decide to bring your subject a carton of milk one morning because you know he has not been eating for days, can you still be objective? Are you being unethical?

– If you photograph your subject shoplifting and when he is caught, you plead with the shop owner to give him a chance, can you still continue doing the project?

– You go to a wedding in a village and the wedding car breaks down and they decide to use your rented car for the ceremony, are you paying for access?

Doing Ethics is HARD and that is part of being a photojournalist/documentary photographer. You cannot detach ethics from the act of photography at will.

Every minute in the field, you will be making hard decisions.

How do you navigate ethics?

Too difficult? Then do something else.