23 September 2005

Taking ethics seriously

Here are some golden words – from “Ethics Matters” columns in News Photographer magazine written by Deni Elliott and Paul Martin Lester:

A photojournalist is a mixture of a cool, detached professional and a sensitive, involved citizen. The taking of pictures is much more than F-stops and shutter speeds. The printing of pictures is much more than scanner and computer settings. The publishing of pictures is much more than cropping and size decisions. A photojournalist must always be aware that the technical aspects of the photographic process are not the primary concerns.

A mother crying over the death of her daughter is not simply an image to be focused, a print to be made, and a picture to be published. The mother's grief is a lesson in humanity. If the photojournalist produces a picture without a thought for her tragedy, the lesson is lost. But if the photographer cares for her loss, is made more humane, and causes the readers to share in her grief, photojournalism has reached its highest potential.

Despite its frustrations and low moments, the lesson of humanity is why photojournalism is an extremely rewarding profession. For that reason, photojournalism is worthy of the most ethical actions possible toward the people you encounter through your photography yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Taking ethics seriously does not imply doing no wrong. We all make mistakes. We all knowingly choose, sometimes, to do what is expedient or what serves our own self-interest over what we know to be the most ethical.

Taking ethics seriously does mean, at a minimum, that we are trying to do our jobs without causing unjustified harm. It means, ideally, that we are looking for ways to do our jobs better than we have and to make our world, our profession, and ourselves, better as well.

Photographs have great emotional power. Those who take ethics seriously stay conscious of the power that they have and the responsibility that they have to use that power judiciously.

No comments: