Week 5: Power and Responsibility
‘If today “everyone is a photographer” then one question rarely asked is why’ [Photography the key concepts, David Bate, 2016] today it is easier than ever before to call yourself a photographer approximately ⅓ of the worlds population own a smart phone and as a result of this a camera that is with them at all times.
This is a Dilemma for those who make their living from photography in that unlike other professions and fields of work you don’t need a qualification, certification or any other form of document to refer to yourself as a professional photographer.
Photography despite its ability to communicate a message regardless of language and the abundance of imagery in every walk of our lives is taken for granted.
The growth of social media means that the possibility of a reversal of this is non existent. A smartphone photographer with no access to a DSLR or any camera outside of his or her smartphone will potentially have a much larger audience and a more feedback on their images than an established photographer.
As a direct result of this in many circumstances the subject of a photograph has no boundaries
Instagram photographer Filip Dobrovic captures all of his images using an iPhone 7 plus his images are well composed and visually appealing he has a large audience and uses nothing but his iPhone to capture the images posted to his instagram.
It isn’t beyond reason to believe that every major event to occur from now on will be captured by someone whether this is using still photography or moving image. the constant feed of embarrassing videos of people arguing, fighting and doing a variety of other things is evidence of this, and if this is the case why shouldn’t a photographer capture all of these moments if given the opportunity? If one doesn’t chances are someone else who refers to them self as a photographer (or not) will capture that moment anyway.
Photography has always been a subject that asks a variety of moral and ethical questions of the photographer. Typically in most circumstances in order to communicate a narrative in a photograph, the photographer must either using anchoring text or reinforce stereotypes this is because photography is a non formal (Typically) form of communication.
An example of this is how women visual representation of women. still today despite obvious change we have commonly accepted standards of beauty and expectations for how a woman should be represented in the media.
Eventually this was identified as sexism and challenged and now, women of different shapes, ages races and weights are shown in the media, and celebrated.
The questions asked about whether an image is ethically right is tied closely to the audience contemporary culture and access to content for the younger audience has led to them becoming more and more desensitised.
In order for an image to have an impact on the instagram generation who have access to al manner of imagery at all times content would need to be be more shocking than ever before the first time I realised this was when walking into a local corner shop in 2011 to see a picture of Muammar Gaddafi who had been shot and killed.
The image on the front of multiple newspapers was a grotesque image of Gaddafi (Below) after he had been shot in the head and killed. This image was plastered across multiple newspapers with no consideration for the audience who may come across this image and the impact that it may have on them.
The headline gloated ‘that’s for Lockerbie’ as if the audience of this image would take some sort of gratification from seeing this image (did they?)
Finally the subject of the image above is very difficult to look at regardless of what the images is of, but was the photographer who captured the image wrong for having done so? in all likelihood if this particular photographer didn’t capture this particular image someone else would have.
Documentary photographers to a certain extent benefit from the misfortune of others. But the benefit is not without consequence as evidenced by the story of Kevin Carter and his eventual suicide due in part to the things he saw and the content of his images.
In my opinion the photographer does have an ethical code with respect to treatment of the subject but not with regards to content of the image.