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