Pop Quiz: A train is about to hit someone and you have your camera. What do you do?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by rcam72, Dec 5, 2012.

  1. rcam72

    rcam72 Member

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    The NY Post ran a front-page photo of a man about to be hit by the Q train. Part of the controversy surrounding the incident is that nobody helped him. R. Umar Abbasi was one of those people. The reason I know his name and not theirs is that he took the picture used by the newspaper. He is a freelancer. He was on an assignment for the paper when this happened. What should he have done? The question of the photographer's/journalist's responsibility to record the news, not be the news has often been asked and I would like to hear the thoughts of our community on this.

    Forbes interviewed John Long of the National Press Photographers Association and he said:
    “Your job as a human being, so to speak, outweighs your job as a photojournalist."
    But the story goes on to point out that the NPPA's code of ethics warns "photographers not to “seek to alter or influence events". So which one is it?
    I don't think Mr. Long's examples support his view though. Both photographers got the shot first. A better one would have been of someone putting their camera down in order to help someone.
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffber...york-posts-subway-death-photo-was-it-ethical/

    I am personally conflicted as to which side to take. Abbasi has succeeded in dragging me onto the platform and made me feel helpless to do anything as well as upset that no one else did. To me the question, beyond that of the photographer's responsibility, is really one of our responsibility to each other as human beings. And that is something I probably wouldn't be thinking about if the image didn't exist.

    Here's Mr. Abbasi's side of the story:
    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/anguished_fotog_critics_are_unfair_s4bWwIXfZlBR6wi2tQALyH
    The headline kind of explains my title. I realize it's from Speed and often used as a joke, but I couldn't think of anything better to capture the immediacy of the situation.

    -Raul
     
  2. snaggs

    snaggs Member

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    Such a simple question. Nobody needs to see someone killed or about to be killed. The fact this question is asked says something about the world we live in.
     
  3. mitch brown

    mitch brown Subscriber

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    wow to even have to ask this question. if it was his sister or son. what would he do. i quess take the picture???. human life is much more inprotant than any picture or story for a paper period.
     
  4. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    The same is true of the iconic photo of the Vietnamese girl running. At the scene two other photographers stopped photographing to help her but no one remembers who thaey were.


    Steve.
     
  5. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    Was there anything the photographer could have done to prevent the accident?

    Could he have stopped the train? Could he have run out and tackled the guy to the ground, knocking him out of harm's way? In doing so, would he have put himself in danger of being killed? Would yelling have stopped the guy from running out into the tracks?

    Or was it a done deal?

    So, then, taking a photograph of an accident would be documentation. Wouldn't it?

    What if the victim's body was mangled beyond recognition? A photograph and the photographer's testimony would certainly establish his identity.

    Could a photograph help determine whether this was an accident, a suicide or even a murder?

    Is there a way this could have been prevented? Photographic evidence could be useful in determining that.

    So, if you are at the scene of some tragedy and there is anything you can do to help, do so!
    But, if you are witnessing a fait accompli, maybe, just maybe, taking a photograph is the best thing you could do.
     
  6. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    We don't know what could or could not have been done to prevent the death. Publishing the picture may be right or wrong, morally or whatever. I don't know. But the predictable holier-than-thou "I'm personally offended and outraged" bullshit hypocrisy pisses me off every time.
     
  7. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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  8. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    The photog had the time and opportunity to reach out and help pull the man to safety, instead he chose to watch the event unfold and allowed a human being to perish. Burn in hell ASSHOLE.
     
  9. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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  10. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

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    But if someone is genuinely offended and outraged, there's no hypocrisy involved.
     
  11. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    I bet they still slow down to look at car accidents.
     
  12. Barry S

    Barry S Member

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    No one, including the photographer, tried to help the victim. I might believe the photographer if not for the hokey "signaling with my flash" story--along the the carefully composed death porn shot, currently selling a lot of copies of the NY Post.
     
  13. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    I would argue that taking the picture and publishing the picture are two separate issues. Maybe documenting the accident was the right thing to do. Maybe not. But publishing the picture is wrong unless it is in the public interest.

    If that's true, I'll bring the lighter fluid, you bring the matches.
     
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  15. Colin Corneau

    Colin Corneau Subscriber

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  16. Brian C. Miller

    Brian C. Miller Member

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    NY Post: Anguished fotog: Critics are unfair to condemn me
    Anybody around here ever hear of a zoom lens?? It's not like this happened directly in front of Mr. Abbasi. He didn't back up to get a better shot and recompose. When it happened, Abbasi was at the other end of the platform, and began running towards the man on the tracks.

    When you're too far to help, that's just the way it is. Instead of berating Abbasi, berate the onlookers who were closer, and just stood by.
     
  17. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    Thanks Brian for being level-headed on this. It doesn't look like he was using a wide angle or anything. Even if his flash story is bogus, it sounds like people at the end of the platform all tried signaling the train.

    New York Post publishing something insensitive? Nahhhhh, must have read that wrong.
     
  18. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    What did you expect from Rupert and newscorp? Responsible journalism?:blink:
     
  19. batwister

    batwister Member

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    Questions of the photographer's responsibilities became irrelevant once the paper published the picture with such a shockingly apathetic caption. They might as well have printed 'EPIC FAIL!'.
     
  20. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    What scares me more than anything is this concept of Internet Justice. Very strong opinion started flying about this photographer as soon as the news hit. We didn't know anything back then. We still don't know much about the facts. A lot of what was said and is said is speculation. Yet, it didn't stop people from forming very definite and strong opinion. Now, this photographer is a public enemy of the week.

    Also, I ask myself.... what would I have done if something this unexpected and out of ordinary thing happened? It will probably take me few seconds to figure out what happened. It will probably take few more seconds to figure out the reasonable course of action - which probably doesn't stand the test of the Internet Justice - which could made ME the enemy of civilization of the week.

    Until of course, something else happens and everyone if focused on THAT.
     
  21. lensman_nh

    lensman_nh Member

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    Nick Ut took the photo. He also put his camera down and helped the girl. He also took her to hospital and used his press credentials to force the staff to treat the girl. They were going to let her die as too badly injured.

    The girls name is Kim Phuc and she refers to "Uncle Nick" to this day and still talks to him regularly. They both live in North America now, Kim in Canada and Nick on the west coast US. In other words in this case the photography who took the iconic image is the one who did the most to save a life, he is the hero as well.

    Don McCullin is I beleive the photographer changing film on the right hand side of the image, although it may heve been Eddie Adams, I don't recall. He missed the shot entirely because he fumbled a film change on his Leica.

    That picture was one of a small handful of images defined much of the publics perception about the war in Vietnam. Some things need to be seen. Some things need to be photographed even if they are never published.

    I recall a Life photographer talking about some of the things he photographed in the concentration camps at the close of WWII. He said many things he photographed should never be published but needed to be archived to show the depths of the descent of man. I doubt that argument can be applied to the subway picture.

    Had I been there, with a train that close I'm fairly confident I would not have risked being pulled onto the lines trying the save the guy. I know there is space under the platform to hide and be safe if you stay tight, but the margins at the time the image was taken are way too fine for me.
     
  22. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    The photographer is the OP's post said that he was too far away, many other people were close enough to help, but did not. He thought the firing the camera would alert the train engineer that there was a problem. I see that this incident is plagued with inaccurate reporting by multiple news groups.
     
  23. mark

    mark Member

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    I am not sure I buy the zoom lens scenario. The image does not seem to be compressed the way zooms do it. He may have been too far away, I was not there, I can't say. What I can say is that the paper published this photo to get people to buy the paper. Death sells, unfortunately.

     
  24. Bob-D659

    Bob-D659 Member

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    Well the only people who do know what happened, were there, and also the ones who have seen the sequence of photos that were taken. Everyone else is speculating. The paper sells papers, if they had a good bloody shot of the aftermath, that would have been in or on the paper as well. :sad: Well maybe in europe, it might have been too gory for the "politically correct" in north america.
     
  25. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    It is easy to critize someone while sitting on an easy chair or sofa at home and reading about it the next day.
     
  26. Darkroom317

    Darkroom317 Member

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    If there was nothing I could do, then yes I would take the photo. More importantly I would publish the photo. The conversation of safety is being brought up again in part because of the photo.

    The photo in this book springs to mind

    http://bhs.cc/journalism/pdf/Chapter10Ethics.pdf

    After it was published there were fewer incidents

    Also, before criticizing the man, keep in mind the bystander effect. In most situations people don't do anything because they believe someone else will.