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So what do I do here?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by sirvaliantbrown, Jun 28, 2008.

  1. I did some reporting for a feature today. Since the event was out of town, the paper used a freelance photographer who'd once worked for years for major papers, also has done a lot of freelance stuff for us.

    This is going to have to be cryptic, but here is the essence: in order to make his shot "better," the photographer grabbed an accessory related to the event, mumbled something like "I'm going to just put this here" to one of the participants, and affixed the accessory in a prominent place in front of him. The man in the photo had never used the accessory at all: the photographer was shooting him, got the idea to include the accessory, got it from an unrelated person, and forced it upon the man in the photo as he did his thing.

    Now, the change to the shot was very, very, very minor. The inclusion of the accessory will not in any way change the way anybody interprets the photo or the event - the accessory was something the man in the shot could easily have been using himself, and I don't think he minded that it was added.

    But I was mortified! Isn't that a violation of first-day-photojournalism-class rules? Reminded me, during my initial mortification, of that joke in The Wire about the photog who carries dolls around with him and strategically places them in every fire shot.

    Anyway. I'm a reporter, not a photographer...I don't know this man at all...do I DO anything about this? Should I indeed be uncomfortable about the use of the shot, even if the effect of the altering was exceptionally insignificant? Do I tell my editor? The photo guys?

    Just very, very uncomfortable with the notion that, when this man opens the paper with his kids and sees the shot, he'll laugh and say, "Know what's funny? I never put that there - the photographer did." It tarnishes our reputation.
  2. DougDascenzo

    DougDascenzo Member

    His photo just became a photo illustration.

    I'd explain to your editor what you just said here, and let them decide.
  3. DougDascenzo

    DougDascenzo Member

    Fair enough, buck.

    But aren't all photo illustations (and portraits, for that matter) essentially manipulating a natural scene?

    Isn't any photo that isn't spot news a manipulation? From what I understand by your post, the level of manipulation is what you have a problem with.

    (For the record, I'm not being snarky. I think this is a valid discussion.)
  4. Doug, those are absolutely fair points about portraits and other non-spot-news photos - they do indeed involve manipulation. The difference between my case and those, though, is that the freelancer's shot still APPEARS like a photo of an organic news event in progress. When we see a photo of a CEO posing in the boardroom, a basketball player growling for the SI camera on an empty practice court, we understand that the photographer has manipulated the event. If you saw this one, you wouldn't know that.
  5. I'm confused.
    If it's a feature shot, aren't the accessories alway manipulated?
    It's one thing to mess with an action shot, but while it may be stupid to have a feature shot of a football player holding a baseball, is it really unethical?
  6. You called it a "clear-cut violation."
    I assumed we were talking about ethics here.
    If you don't run the photo just because it's stupid, then I have no complaint.
    If you don't run it because it's unethical, I'm simply asking what is unethical about it. I'm not a photographer and would like to understand why this is over the line but other things aren't.
  7. spnited

    spnited Active Member

    I am absolutely baffled that there would be any problem running this photo.

    Suppose, instead of putting the "accessory" in front of the person, he simply asked the person to stand behind the "acessory," wherever it was orginally. Would that be different?
    And, no, Doug, this is not a photo iliustration. It is a feature photo. Period.
  8. I see the difference. Maybe we're talking about different things.
    I understood the original shot to be a feature shot. In that case, I wouldn't see a problem with adding something.
    If it is a "live" shot, for lack of a better term, and you are adding things, then there is a big problem.
  9. At least we finally agree then.
  10. Barsuk

    Barsuk Active Member

    I interpreted it the same as Demo -- as a portrait shot, more or less -- and didn't see the problem. But sirvaliant's description is admittedly cryptic, so I'm not sure my interpretation is correct.
  11. zebracoy

    zebracoy Guest

    This is why I hate that these things sometimes have to be so vague. I don't have the slightest clue what he's talking about.

    Hell, the image that I got was that the photographer put some kind of sign on a scorer's table in the background of a basketball photo. But that seems way off.
  12. BrianGriffin

    BrianGriffin Active Member

    I was thinking a baseball bat in front of an AL pitcher. Or a text book in front of one of the freshmen just drafted in the NBA draft...
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