Ethics are for sissies

In the modern visual world, some people want to use their photography to do more than just tell a news story, they want to make up a story using their photo. For editorail journalism, there is a fairly clearcut set of guidelines, while in the world of parody and opinion are much less defined.

Two recent cases over the last week are worth a case study. In the first, PDN reported on photographer Jill Greenberg, who took some personal liberties while shooting John McCain for the cover of The Atlantic. The short story is she basically ‘tricked’ McCain into a very unflattering lighting setup, thereby making him appear evil – think flashlight-under-the chin sort of thing. There is also a good read about this on the Photo Business Forum.

Attorney Ed Greenberg (no relation) has sent out a letter via his email list that contains the following helpful links, in which he writes:

There are numerous articles, rules and codes regarding photography in this “age of falsification”. These codes and standards are used by news agencies, magazines and courtrooms and serve to permit and prohibit, the extent to which imagery may be altered for their respective purposes. We urge each of you to be aware of the ethics involved when altering imagery. It is a subject we teach at The School of Visual Arts.

Perhaps the best set of guidelines are those of The National Press Photographer’s Association (NPPA Ethics)

Other notable references worth more than a look:

He also included the following links as well:

Digital_Imaging_Ethics.pdf
ReutersBlog/the-use-of-photoshop/
http://commfaculty.fullerton.edu/lester/writings/chapter6.html
http://photoshopnews.com/2005/04/03/kate-doesnt-like-photoshop/
http://www.scottkelby.com/blog/2007/archives/693
http://forensicphotoshop.blogspot.com/2007/12/rules-of-engagement-for -using-photoshop.html

And then there’s the case of the photo of Sarah Palin in a flag-style bikini holding (edit) an air rifle. Photographer Jim Goldstein managed to score an interview with the young out-of-work web-editor that ‘assembled’ this image. Oddly and sadly, even in this parody arising out of boredom, she never asked permission to alter someone else’s photo(s). She says she just assumed the image(s) were creative commons, and she never thought to ask. What a great education some people seem to be lacking as they waltz out of school. What if the original photographer decided sue for unauthorized use? He may or may not win due to Fair Use doctrines, but either way, it would be a very expensive lesson.




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5 Comments on “Ethics are for sissies”

  1. Ken Hagler Says:

    That’s not a machine gun in the photo, it’s a rifle. It doesn’t look even remotely like a machine gun.

    I noticed that in the interview “Naomi” sure got defensive when the subject of someone misappropriating _her_ work (as a writer) came up.

  2. photoburner Says:

    Geez do any of you people know what a machine gun looks like? That thing in her hands is a air rifle, aka bee-bee gun

  3. enlightphoto Says:

    Thanks guys for the correction.

    (See edit)

    My bad; in haste I wrote “…holding a ‘machine gun’” above. I was rushed and distracted by wrastling kids to do homework. Truth is I was ranked as an NRA Marksman as a teen, so yes, I do recognize it as a rifle, and not a machine gun.

  4. Richard Wong Says:

    Same difference. Guns kill.

    Not being familiar with The Atlantic, are they considered a news publication? From reading what’s been going on, I’d figured they were an entertainment magazine and thus could take creative liberties.

  5. enlightphoto Says:

    Richard: As mentioned in the PDN & ProBizForum, Jill was on assignment to create a portrait for use in the magazine. During that shoot, she had the idea to shoot him in a different light, subversively, and for her own reasons. The Atlantic was looking to portray him in a more positive light than what Ms. Greenberg had in mind for her own evil capture.



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