16 September 2005

Is photojournalism a political statement?

[Citation: brochure of the 17th International Festival of Photojournalism – symposium held on 1 & 2 September 2005 in Perpignan, France.]

In 2004 the Visa pour l’Image symposium was concerned with ethics and ethical behaviour. These are terms that photojournalists always use with a great deal of caution. We are only too aware that the work of ethics committees often ends up restricting freedom of expression, while citing lofty arguments as justification.

How then can the work of photojournalists be assessed when contributions to democratic debate are given little credence?

Where does it stand in societies where democracy has been restricted by the commoditization of communication and discussion?

How can this form of expression be used to go beyond standard approaches that present war and disasters as mere stories or anecdotes?

How can the content ensure that photojournalism is granted the full status it deserves, i.e., to use a term often scorned today, “political” status?

For when ethics disappear, the true political import of the news conveyed by photojournalistic reports becomes the subject for discussion. Of course the term “political” or “politics” is being used here to denote the broad context of society and the life of citizens.

If photojournalists are recognized as key links in the news chain in democratic societies, if free and independent news covering a diversity of opinions is also seen as an integral part of democracy, just as the right to vote is, then photojournalism stands as a political statement and must be treated as such, as a tool for democracy that cannot and must not be circumvented, either in form or content, so as to continue as a service to citizens.

Do I need to say more?

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