Unfortunately, we did not have any labs this week due to the “Snowpocalypse” that shut us down for most of the week. However, we did get to have a very interesting lecture about some photography ethics. There were two things that really stood out to me from the lecture.
Altering a Photograph
During the lecture, Steve explained to us that if you alter a photograph digitally, it is a serious offense that will usually cost you your job. This surprised me at first, because I had always looked at photography as an art form more than anything. When Steve said this, it made me pause and realize that photography is more than just a form of art. Photojournalism is a real form of journalism, and it has to be used to tell the truth in a non-biased manner. Visual reactions are even stronger than reactions to written material, so
photography could potentially be even more influential than an inaccurately written story. For example, the Time cover we saw showed how the editors of Time chose to make O.J. Simpson’s skin much darker than it really was, and used the lighting to make his eyes look more sinister. This is dangerous, because it played on racial stereotypes. Whether it was done intentionally or unintentionally, it’s still dangerous, because it exploits subconscious racial biases that are embedded in the American psyche. That is powerful, and it means that photojournalists have a serious responsibility.
One thing Steve pointed out during the lecture was that if you alter a photograph like Time did and get caught, it doesn’t affect just you, but all journalists. First of all, it obviously affects your credibility. Secondly, it hurts the credibility of the news organization for which you work. Ultimately though, it affects the credibility of the journalism profession as a whole because people already don’t trust the media. When a scandal like this comes out, it confirms the skeptics’ beliefs that the media is untrustworthy, so people are less likely to believe what the media says.
For these reasons, Spiderman’s Uncle Ben’s words that “with great power comes great responsibility” apply to photojournalists as well as superheroes.