DO STAGED NEWS PHOTOGRAPHS WIN AWARDS?

12_Gaza

Paul Hansen, the photojournalist at the center of the Fabienne Cherisma debate, has won top honors at the World Press Photo awards. Given his questionable role in repositioning Cherisma’s body before photographing it (or allowing it to be moved in his presence and then knowingly photographing it afterward), one might wonder about the authenticity of his award-winning Gaza photograph (seen above). It all makes this skeptical author wonder: Does staging news photographs win you awards?

Update (March 1, 2013): A commenter on my previous post provided the link to the photograph below, reportedly taken by another photographer at the same event. It certainly looks more “real” than Hansen’s version. But this begs the question: Is it ever permissible for a news photographer to manipulate his image after the fact, such as using Photoshop to tweak the lighting of the original scene, as some have asserted that Hansen had done?

Update (May 14, 2013): Today The Huffington Post is reporting that analysis of Hansen’s “Gaza” photograph has revealed that he produced it from different image files. You can read about it here.

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Sources: msnbc, photographyblog.com, World Press Photo, Paul Hansen

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2 thoughts on “DO STAGED NEWS PHOTOGRAPHS WIN AWARDS?

  1. kempwrites says:

    Could it be that the two shooters were in different locations at slightly different times?…

    Two shooters, two different photos, two different effects.

    1. Alley vs. more open street
    2. Different positioning and expressions of those in photo
    3. Indirect, muted light partially blocked in alley vs. direct, hard light in street

    The first photo does have a more “painterly” quality. Perhaps it was enhanced in Photoshop between shooting and publication.

    What ethical issues might this pose?

    1. Does a more muted, “painterly” scene inherently “favor” the subject/context of a photo?
    2. How does making minor adjustments to a digital photo in Photoshop differ from burning in or dodging a film photo in a darkroom?
    3. How does one decide where to “stop the slider” in order not to violate one professional ethics? (In other words, is there an absolute point within Photoshop settings, before which is ethical and after which is unethical?)

    My take: All three of these issues are highly subjective and the shooter/editor/reporter/post-production team MUST place them in context for each photo and each story. That will vary according to the individuals and the nature of the publication. If the publication’s ethic is traditional journalistic neutrality and the unblinking eye, that’s one thing. If the publication has a particular political ideology, it serves a different purpose and follows different ethics. The question becomes whether a deliberately ideological publication is honest about its position, or is dishonest in claiming neutrality.

    I think comparing Photo One and Photo Two, without full benefit of the photogs’ justifications, is a bit of an apples-and-oranges exercise. If both photos were taken from the same angle, at the same moment, I think we could question motives/ideologies. I don’t know either of these photogs, but I suspect they were thinking about getting the shot without getting shot.

  2. Jeffrey Maciejewski says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a thoughtful comment! You raise some excellent points that I will be sure to use in the classroom when we discuss this case again in the future. As you suggest, this case and cases like it are nuanced and quite complex from both human and philosophical viewpoints. Thank you again–and please visit our blog again sometime soon! –Jeff

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