Thursday, 11 February 2010

Does Photojournalism Display Truth or Truth as We See it?

I read an article today in the BBC about "picturing disaster". It is a blog talking about the value of photojournalism. It notes that there have been complaints about the photos shown of Haiti and of Haitians themselves. The author, Phil Coomes, argues that although the photos can be gruesome, they are the truth. It reminds me of another opinion article I read in the Independent. Both views are in complete contrast of the other. I tend to lean toward Andy Kershaw's view in the Independent.

If Britain suffered a major catastrophe, do you think they would show the same images they do of the Haitians? Do you think they'd show a young women being pulled from rubble, dress ripped showing her privates, her upper thigh, or a snotty-nose without her consent? Or do we only show these images because they are foreign, black, and savage-like ... or better yet, because they can't complain? We don't see images of British soldiers brutally killed in muddy trenches. We don't see soldiers with one leg blown off after being injured or killed by a road-side bomb. That would be offensive to the country and to their family who wants to remember them as they were in their prime. Is photojournalism really about seeing the truth? I have a feeling it's more about evoking emotion, when appropriate (and that's when no one has the power to protest it).

I personally detest this "Fox News" approach to journalism. It is more about evoking emotion than it is reporting. It, to me, shows a lack of class. It's not that I want to be censored, I just want the people in these images to be respected. If the photos are taken and later the consent is given by the individuals, why not publish them at a later date? I, for one, don't want a photo taken of me with drool down my face, a bald patch from hair ripped out of my head, my t-shirt slipped up showing my tummy and belly fat, etc. It's not insecurity, it's just indecent. It's not who I am and it doesn't represent me. It shows me as a victim; a poor, helpless pet.


  1. Excellent and thought provoking blog. I appreciate your views and I agree to a large degree, but I would worry that if we did not have photo journalism, future equivalents of images like Falling Soldier, by Robert Capa, and Girl,by Nick Ut, that made the world sit up and realise the truth of war, would not be there to remind us all of the consequences of our actions. This explains what I mean a bit better

  2. Nicely said. I do agree with you. Girl by Nick Ut definitely comes to mind when I think of war as well. I think I respect it more because the girl, Kim Phuc, was on an interview and tells how it has made a difference to her life.