Ethics in PhotoJournalism

The prezi below is one of the lessons about Photo Journalism in my Media Laws and Ethics class at the University of San Jose-Recoletos. Due to “student-demand” (clamor of some students), i’ve extracted this slide from my secret room in this blog and published it here.

I began by telling the class that since there was no Code of Ethics of the local press photographers in the Philippines, so i decided to dig on the National Press Photographers Association’s (in the USA) Code of Ethics (Slides 1 – 5).

Next slide shows the images from the short-film “One Hundredth of a Second” which i made a film-showing and discussion with the class.

I zoomed in to the third image at far left in Slide 7 showing a 1994 Pulitzer Prize winner by South African photojournalist Kevin Carter (13 September 1960 – 27 July 1994). Carter photographed a starving toddler in Sudan in 1993 while the latter was crawling to reach a feeding center. The picture appeared like Carter was waiting for the vulture to prey on the dying toddler. Carter was heavily criticized for taking pictures and didn’t extended a helping hand to the child. He explained that it was his call of duty to document the scene. He had previous instructions not to touch the kid because of transmitting disease. Though, he revealed he shoo away the vulture after waiting for 20 minutes. He was haunted by the girl’s fate amid criticism against him. He committed suicide at the age of 33, three months after winning the Pulitzer for Feature Photography.

I asked the class without explaining the info above the following questions:

  • Take the shot or help the girl?
  • Ethical or not?
  • Conscience or profession

Some contended that photographers should apply the “Shoot first, edit later” rule to decide what pictures are appropriate for publication. “Edit later” doesn’t mean altering the image but merely choosing which is right for publication. Deletion in photojournalism is considered manipulation.

In cases like Kevin Carter’s, some opined that is already the personal decision of each and every photojournalist. However, Paul Martin Lester, professor of communication at the California State University has recommended “Six Ethical Philosophies” to guide photojournalists when taking shots. Please continue reading each philosophy along with the slides. 🙂

Advertisements