prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Archive for December, 2012

Someone’s about to die

Posted by prof e on December 12, 2012

Two photos, taken within a few days of one another in NYC, of men about to die.

In the period of a week these two photos were taken and published in newspapers and online. In each photo you can see the final moment before a life is snuffed out. In the first photo the victim is about to be hit by a New York subway train. In the second, the victim is about to be shot point-blank by the man approaching from behind. The first image was taken by R. Umar Abbasi, a freelance photographer for The New York Post. The second was a still from a surveillance camera.

The ethics of shooting, publishing, and captioning photos such as these are complex and difficult. You can find plenty of blogs and essays that attempt to dissect the issues involved (here’s one and here’s another) and they make many excellent points. It can be argued that I’m just as guilty by posting the pix on my blog and using the power of these very compelling images to draw you into a conversation about their appropriateness.

I hope that you will be prepared, if and when the day comes, to make the difficult choices that may be facing you. Do you take the picture? And if the picture is taken, do you print it? Which picture do you print? Which caption do you run? When does the public’s right to know trump the family’s right to privacy?

The best that we can hope for is that our choices come from ethical foundations that understands and appreciates the complicated, and often conflicting, values at play.

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Posted in 1st amendment, journalism, media effects, photography | 19 Comments »