Tuesday, 12 May 2009

News Photography - Some thoughts on the subject Part 2

In a previous post - Getting Involved - Owen Phillips of the Magic Lantern Show blog raised a question about the behaviour of the photographers at the scene of Princess Diana's fatal car crash. In that post, I had been discussing the behaviour of the press at the Aberfan Disaster and how they dropped their notebooks and went to help, something that is very rare today.

While most people are quick to condemn the actions of the paparazzi who photographed her dying moments, there are a number of things to think about. These weren't staff photographers working for a particular newspaper or magazine. They were freelances whose income comes from getting the shot and selling the photographs to the highest bidder. Being in that line of work leaves the individual freelance photographers with little choice but to take the photographs, especially as no freelance present would agree to one taking the photographs and sharing (pooling) them with the others, while the others would try and help the occupants of the car.

I'd like to make it quite clear that I am not condoning what the photographers chose to do. I am just giving a few thoughts on it and leave it for readers to think about themselves. I'd be interested to here what others think so post your comments here. Thank you.


Donnetta Lee said...

Hi, Laurie: I wish I had an intelligent comment to leave, but I don't. I've stayed confused by the whole story, I'm afraid. I know it was a tragedy on many levels. I guess it boils down to professional ethics and personal morals. If you have a family to feed--well, that might figure in to your actions. Love your blog. Thank you for visiting me and please come back! D

Ananji said...

If the house three doors down were burning, would everyone within the visual area be fire fighters? If you were a freelance writer or a photographer, you would use the experience like you use all experiences - another drama on the canvas of your work / passion. That doesn't mean you go around setting fires.

Laurie said...

Hi Donnetta, Don't sell yourself short. I am very glad you took the time to respond and I think you made a good point - it being a tragedy on many levels. I remember at the time being amazed by the public's response to Diana's death. You will remember the huge mounds of flowers that were laid by people in a London Park. I decided to go up and see it for myself and was so glad I did. The atmosphere was amazing. As soon as you got near, you could - to use a cliche - cut the atmosphere with a knife. The whole area was enveloped in collective grief and it was very moving.

I will certainly visit your own wonderful blog frequently.
Best wishes

Laurie said...

Thank you, Ananji and welcome. You make a very valid point. Someone has to fight the fire, someone has to stand and stare and . . . someone has to capture that 'moment in time' that photography historians often go on about!

By the way, I like your poetry very much and look forward to seeing more of your work.

Owen said...

Laurie, you did well to steer me over this way, I've been so darn busy between work, family, and my irresponsible late night blogging, that I almost forgot about your other blogs... so many blogs, so little time!!! And now I see a third and a fourth blog in your list ! Anyway, the whole Diana story is just devastatingly sad. Her driver who apparently was not sober, driving at high speed in Paris, chased by motorcycles... an accident waiting to happen.

I've seen papparazzi at work on a couple of occasions, once I happened to be walking by a hotel where Madonna was staying, you should have seen the sea of photographer sharks, all jostling and shoving to get closer... I stayed well clear... am happier in the woods with just a tree and me, or at a dream house site. But hey, everyone marches to their own drummer, and some of those photos sell for big bucks... nobody has offered me a penny for one of mine yet (well, not entirely true, I sold 500 posters of a shot I did of Jerry Garcia a long time ago)... so, I guess at the end of the day, one has to live with one's conscience...

Laurie said...

Thanks, Owen. I would hate to be doorstepped by paparazzi, but then I am not famous enough or a British Member of Parliament. I am glad you made it eventually . . .

I note your Jerry Garcia poster. I just got two CDs from the library - JG plays Dylan and the Jerry Garcia Band. That reminds me. Long ago when I was young, I went to a Pink Floyd concert at the HalleMunsterland arena in Germany and blagged my way to the press enclosure. I shot a great black and white study of Roger Waters screaming during a performance of 'Careful with that Axe, Eugene!' Frightened the life out of me! I'll try and find the photograph and post it on my CPIMM blog rather than this my MWL blog.
Bis den nexten mal!

Beth Niquette said...

The entire thing was tragic. If the driver hadn't been drunk, if the paparazzi hadn't been so determined to follow, if they'd been wearing seat belts...any of those factors could have averted a terrible accident.

I read there was a doctor on the scene who didn't recognize her at first, but who helped her.

I do not know what it would be like to have people invading my private space the way the paparazzi do. I find them singularly heartless at times.

To be a freelance photographer is that person's choice. Just because they may need money for rent or food, does not give them the right to invade the privacy of others.

I could not imagine being so famous photographers would feel free to follow so closely. Diana did not choose to be famous. Those free lance photogs chose their profession.

To their credit, I have heard none of those photographers have released the photos they took. Perhaps they have a little heart after all.

I love your blog by the way! You have some interesting and thought provoking ideas! (grin)

Laurie said...

Hi Beth,
Thank you for your comments. I agree - very sad. I am not entirely convinced it is to the photographers' credit that the photographs have not been published. I seem to remember hearing that some photographs were seized and others were probably hidden by the photographers. A few years ago, a German magazine published a close-up photograph of Diana trapped in the wreckage. It was on sale in Britain, but quickly sold out. Some 140 images taken by the photographers were shown by police at the trial of the paparazzi. I am not suggesting you do, but if you put the words diana dying into Google images you can view a black and white portrait of her in the car on a 'Diana was Murdered' conspiracy blog . . .

I will be discussing some aspects of media censorship in a future post.
Best wishes

Lydia said...

I have enjoyed these two commentaries.

In a bit I'll be posting something that involves you....TAG. (only if this appeals...)

Jenny said...

Hello Laurie,

Interesting question! Freelance photographers certainly have to "sell themselves" now and then to survive. But, in the Diana context, I have to say that they acted unethical.

Quite often, I just cannot stand news photographers' greed after sensational photos. Remember that pictures of a woman having her behind chewed by a polar bear at a German zoo... Gee.

I come from a country (Sweden) where journalistic ethics have been very strict. However, I can see that this trend is changing rapidly now.

Thank you very much for following my site! I am always happy to see new faces on the list. :)

Your own blog is very well-written and interesting and you raise important issues that can be discussed for hours. I am glad to be a reader of it henceforth.



Lori E said...

Perhaps we should be looking at the regular Jane and Joe who buy the magazines that pay for these photos. Someone is buying them. If they say no more then the paparazzi will find something else lucrative to photograph. Just not me.

CrazyCris said...

Hi Laurie

I've been wanting to thank you for stopping by my blog... but I've been having trouble figuring out which one of yours to do so in! You seem to have several interesting ones active!


Laurie said...

I think you are right, those buying the magazines with the photos in do have to take some of the blame . . .

Laurie said...

Crazy Chris or can I call you Chris?

Sorry to cause you confusion, but always happy to welcome new visitors!

creatingpicturesinmymind is my main blog. This one [MyWritingLife]is next, although I am aware my number one priority is to find my archive of historic photos to help illustrate what I am talking about.

The next one - TheGraveyardDetective is under construction and once I have mastered having a blog page with posts on the left and two columns to the right, it should leap into action. Certainly, the photos for the latter are ready to go!

CrazyCris said...

You can call me Cris!

Juggling three blogs at once... how do you do it?!

I've been trying to get my second one started for a while but can't seem to decide on the format I want or the title or ... argh!!! I wish I was proficient at modifying the templet layouts... ideally I'd go for a three column blog with a wider screen! And change colours and add photos and... and.. and... I'm always envious of those who can personalise it so well!

good luck with your projects!

Laurie said...

Cris, Thank you. As soon as I pressed publish on my reply to you, I realised that blogger had decided to spell Cris - Chris! Sorry.

I hope you get round to your second blog, soon. I agree, it's a nightmare getting what you wanted - if you look at my other graveyard detective site - the one with 2 followers and the one I am about to rename experimental layouts - you will see I managed to find a free template of the type I currently use - Minima but with posts and two columns. I just copied the HTML and went into html in my own blog and pasted it over the top of the existing html and surprise surprise, I got a posts column plus two information columns. Trouble is, I want the post column on the left with the two narrower columns on the right.

I will have to do what I did to find this one, put 'free minima 3 column template' into google - it brought up loads and I am sure what I need will be there - famous last words!

Good luck

Best wishes


Francois said...

"Privacy", "conscience", "Freelance photographers certainly have to 'sell themselves' now and then to survive", "greed", certainly there are many points of views about this or any other story- but one thing is certain, if you don't take the photo the guy next to you is going to and he is the one that will receive the money for it. This world is long past still having moral values.

Laurie said...

Hi Jenny, Thank you for giving your views and it is always interesting to hear about journalistic ethics in other countries.

I know what you mean. Some of the photographs that appear in the press, and you cite the example of the woman bitten by the polar bear, seem to be published just because the editors believe their readers will want to see it [and sell more newspapers]. If we are not careful, more and more horrendous examples of personal misery, grief and . . . death will appear.

That said, some parts of the media do show some ethics and refuse to publish particularly dreadful photographs.