The Press and Morality

Do two such opposites as the Press and morality go together? From recent events it seems not in many people’s eyes.

Could He Have Done More?

Could He Have Done More?

The recent death of a man at Times Square station on the New York Underground photographed by a freelance photojournalist Umar Abbasi, and the disgusting headline and photo on the New York Times front page that followed, has raised a storm of protest about news journalists and photographers in particular.

Many are complaining that instead of continuing to take photographs, Abbasi should have done something to help the poor man who was pushed under the approaching train by an unknown person with whom he had previously been talking. Abbasi contends there was nothing he could have done to help the victim back onto the platform before the trains arrival in the station, but that he did operate the flash on his camera several times down the track to try and alert the train driver.

Tasteless In Extreme

Tasteless In Extreme

The New York Times was also heavily criticized for its poor judgement in making the incident a front page story with graphic photo’s.  I too find it most distasteful when the Press revel in the suffering of humanity, like that which we saw daily from places like Gaza during their recent spat with Israel. Bloody corpses and a father carrying the mutilated body of his daughter. The newspaper editors today seem intent on putting gory photo’s on the front page in an effort to attract more readers. The sad thing is, it works because people today love to see pictures of the suffering others – just so long as they do not have to witness it first-hand of course!

A Vulture Stalks Its Prey

A Vulture Stalks Its Prey

There have been many cases in the past where ‘the shot’ is more important than those under threat. In 1993 photographer Kevin Carter was awarded the Pulitzer prize for his picture of a vulture stalking a starving Sudanese toddler, but afterwards received so much criticism for not saving the child he committed suicide a year later.

Do We REally Need To See This?

Do We Really Need To See This?

The base desire to get that magic photo that will sell millions of newspapers is overpowering for many photographers today and they will do whatever is necessary to get it. We saw this with the death of Princess Diane in Paris all those years ago where the paparazzi were fighting with police and ambulance men to get close enough to photograph the inside of the car!

The Paparazzi Camp Outside The Hospital

The Paparazzi Camp Outside The Hospital

We see it daily at any big news event like when the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton was taken to hospital recently. I would describe photographers today as a pack of wild dogs, but that would be an insult to wild dogs. The pushing and shoving of photographers surrounding an important news event make a rugby scrum look extremely gentle and sophisticated by comparison.

Paparazzi 'Scrum'

Paparazzi ‘Scrum’

It always amazes me that after getting a good photo they still have to fight for position to take a hundred more that turn out just the same. When I photograph something I take one shot and if its good I end it, not keep the camera shutter clicking for about two minutes non-stop. The trouble is, these days with digital camera’s you can take a hundred or more photo’s, whereas in the old days you only had a limited supply before you needed to put in a new film.

Death Through Indifference?

Death Through Indifference?

The basic question here is: Should a photographer put down his camera and go to the aid of someone in trouble? Photographer Abassi was criticized for not doing that even though he maintains there was nothing he could do. That may be, but obviously, basic morality says he should at least have made an attempt, but he didn’t. For a professional photographer it is difficult to make a decision to forgo a possible Pulitzer Prize photo with the fame and money that comes with it, or to drop the camera and perhaps save a life or prevent someone getting badly hurt. Its a sign of how people and moral standards have changed today.

What Would You Do?

What Would You Do?

Don’t for one minute think that this dilemma applies only to Press photographers, for you or I could face the same situation at any time, on any day. Do you take the photo that could make you a lot of money but at the risk of serious injury or death of another human being, or do you drop your camera and perhaps save a life? I’ll leave you to decide!


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