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  1. #1

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    Times when photos shouldn't be taken

    I was coming home on the SW Chief (Amtrak) today. Around 10:00 AM a Laguna man (Indian/Native American tribe) either pushed or chased another onto the tracks in front of the speeding train. We were stopped for four hours while tribal officials, FBI, NTSB, etc. investigated. The body was strewn all over. Someone in the seat nearby said something about taking a picture. I told them not to, that for one thing the cops were right outside and could see them, and for another it would be a very untasteful thing to do. The man got mad at me. Should I have kept my mouth shut? I am all for photographers' rights but for one thing it was tribal land we were on. It was also one of their own that was killed. Out of respect I didn't think it was proper at all. He never took any pictures in the end but made more sarcastic comments to me. He was from Tennessee and probably doesn't know much about the various customs of this part of the country.

  2. #2
    TheFlyingCamera's Avatar
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    I'd say it was tasteless regardless of location/ethnicity of the folks involved. Unless you're with the media, or a police forensic photographer, you don't photograph that. That to me would be only slightly less offensive than collecting body parts as souvenirs in a war zone. As a journalist, I think you have the obligation to take the proverbial Eddie Addams shot or the Nick Uy photo of the napalmed girl. But that's different, because you're under an observe-and-record obligation.

  3. #3

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    Well said, Scott.

    Absolutely this is a situation where making photos would not be proper. The only exception I can see would be if the photos would aid an investigation. But clearly this wasn't one of those situations.

  4. #4

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    that's a tough one nc

    i'd have been tempted to photograph the effective of the incident rather than the incident itself

    how does one explain or understand the Edward Weston image of the dead man in the desert? how does this image fit into Weston's body of work?

    Ray

  5. #5
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    The most important part of this question, is that it is a question that needs to be addressed.

    Some times, the image to be captured is so important, that the need to capture it is more important than the sensibilities that will most likely be imposed upon by taking and sharing the photograph.

    I expect that this example is one that doesn't need a photograph, but there may be photographs available, in and about the periphery, that would be so valuable as to mandate that they be taken.

    I think that any time you are dealing with an absolute tragedy, there has to be something special, of general pubic concern, before it is appropriate to take and publish an image.

    There may, however, be important information to share about the aftermath. Those who are connected to the story, and are willing to share it, may very well be the subject of something that is photographically special. I would just be sure to have their written consent/release.

    Matt

  6. #6
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    Often, that ACT of photographing makes people feel in control -- even if the photographs made are ever viewed. The psychologies in play are hard to truly fathom.

    "What Would Zeus Do?"
    KBPhotoRantPhotoPermitAPUG flickr Robot

  7. #7
    Stephen Frizza's Avatar
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    ok I dont mean to sound macabre but when i was 20 i was present for the a public murder of a man. I had my camera with me and im not quite sure of my thought process during the killing but all I could do was photograph it.

    I have never publicly shown these images and they sit quietly in my files. (the police were informed by me that ide shot the incident) I've printed some of the images and I am totally disconnected from the event. I see the images but i Dont feel as though i shot them.


    In saying this I dont feel the above situation is appropriate, it seems ghoulish and voyeuristic of a misfortune, however the same might be said about what I shot? I guess the mind can be a funny thing in new extreme situations which present themselves.


    ~steve

  8. #8
    TheFlyingCamera's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen Frizza View Post
    ok I dont mean to sound macabre but when i was 20 i was present for the a public murder of a man. I had my camera with me and im not quite sure of my thought process during the killing but all I could do was photograph it.

    I have never publicly shown these images and they sit quietly in my files. (the police were informed by me that ide shot the incident) I've printed some of the images and I am totally disconnected from the event. I see the images but i Dont feel as though i shot them.


    In saying this I dont feel the above situation is appropriate, it seems ghoulish and voyeuristic of a misfortune, however the same might be said about what I shot? I guess the mind can be a funny thing in new extreme situations which present themselves.


    ~steve
    I think your situation is a bit different - you were witnessing the event take place. This was an after-the-fact voyeuristic gawking. If you are a witness and/or a party to an event, you have license to photograph it, or at least a greater license to photograph it than someone who comes along later and says, "oh wow- cool bloodsplatter!" . This guy, even though he was riding in the train that hit the guy, isn't observing the same way. He was't there taking photos and captured the event as it happened.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheFlyingCamera View Post
    I think your situation is a bit different - you were witnessing the event take place. This was an after-the-fact voyeuristic gawking. If you are a witness and/or a party to an event, you have license to photograph it, or at least a greater license to photograph it than someone who comes along later and says, "oh wow- cool bloodsplatter!" . This guy, even though he was riding in the train that hit the guy, isn't observing the same way. He was't there taking photos and captured the event as it happened.
    I'm not sure it's so easy to make that distinction. In fact, you could argue that if you are present there is even less reason for photographing the shot (unless, under certain limited conditions, as a photojournalist). If you are present there is always the sense that you could perhaps be doing something about it, or at least, if that's really not possible, absenting your interest in and engagement with the situation as a 'voyeur'.

    I don't necessarily condemn or judge - we do strange things under duress, and taking photographs can be a coping mechanism. Doesn't mean it's a good thing, or the best that could be done in that situation.
    Last edited by catem; 09-01-2007 at 07:39 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  10. #10
    TheFlyingCamera's Avatar
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    yes- it's always an ethical dilemma, to take photos and serve as a witness, or to put down the camera, become a participant, and influence the outcome of the event. Never an easy answer.

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