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February 2, 2013 9:16 AM   Subscribe


 
This is one of those situations where there's no pleasing everybody. Someone other than Ms. Marie might have preferred the photographer keep his distance and try to be invisible. Not knowing which preference a particular subject might have a priori means the photographer just has to pick a style and roll with it, hoping for the best, I would think.
posted by axiom at 9:36 AM on February 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


What I find really annoying and evasive is photographs of grieving relatives at funerals. The fact that family members of a drunk driving accident or murder victim are sad is not news - especially if they are not public figures - and does not add anything of value to the public's understanding of the event.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:46 AM on February 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


That photo was taken at a scheduled public event. I don't think she should have any expectation of privacy or permission requested.

When I saw the title of this post "photographed in a moment of grief" I was expecting something a bit harder to formulate an opinion on, like the Kent State girl. Something where the grief wasn't scheduled.
posted by surplus at 9:49 AM on February 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't think she should have any expectation of privacy or permission requested. She said that in the article. All they are saying is that it would have been nice if she had been asked.
posted by Think_Long at 10:00 AM on February 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Basically, "Treat me like a human being rather than a natural resource you can exploit."
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:02 AM on February 2, 2013 [22 favorites]


A photograph of me teary-eyed made the front page of the local paper in a story about my college's graduation. I had had no idea that the photograph was taken, and yeah, I felt pretty violated, even though my sadness was nothing compared to Ms. Marie's. The picture of her is definitely a powerful image of grief, but the way the photographer acted, Heisenbergianly interrupting the moment, was so disrespectful.
posted by Tsuga at 10:09 AM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of my favorite photographs of my grandfather is this one, from my dad's funeral. It was taken without his knowledge, permission, or participation. If you'd have asked him at the time, he wouldn't have wanted to be photographed. And it's not a picture he'd ever want to look at afterwards.

But it captures a father's grief at having to bury his son. It allows me to see a side of my grandfather that he always kept hidden. I love this picture.

A professional photographer has an obligation to take pictures in difficult times. To share the emotions on display. I guess, for me, what it comes down to is the difference between "click, click, click, click, click, click, click" and "click." Photojournalists shouldn't be like paparazzi, taking thousands of shots so they can luck up and catch the perfect one. A good photographer should capture the exact moment and then give someone their space.
posted by ColdChef at 10:17 AM on February 2, 2013 [24 favorites]


I think the photo of Victoria Soto (teacher who was murdered at Sandy Hook)'s sister when she found out her sister was among the murdered is a more difficult conversation over the role of a photographer and the subject.
posted by quodlibet at 10:20 AM on February 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


I don't even like people taking my picture without permission when I'm not grieving. If someone ever did it when I was, I might very well do something that would put me in jail. This idea that you have the right to take photographs of anyone, anywhere, anytime... may well be true, from, a legal standpoint. But by Christ I do not like it, and by Christ I will make the magnitude of my dislike painfully evident to you if you ever exercise your nasty little "right" on me when I'm grieving.
posted by Decani at 10:35 AM on February 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


To be a great documentary photographer you kind of need to be either incredibly personable or an inconsiderate asshole. Unfortunately, I am neither.
posted by nathancaswell at 10:37 AM on February 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


While I don't think taking pictures like this should be illegal, it does strike me as immoral to do so. I wouldn't do it no matter how good the image.
posted by shothotbot at 10:39 AM on February 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


"all of a sudden I hear 'clickclickclickclickclick' all over the place. And there are people in the bushes, all around me, and they are photographing me, and now I'm pissed. I felt like a zoo animal."

Obviously the photographer was legally allowed to take this photo. No one is disputing that. The problem is whether it was ethical professionally, or as a human being, to do so.

The photographer could have gone up to her after to get her name so he could caption it correctly, which would have given her a chance to have a voice in the situation. He didn't.

It's not like the photograph was important or great. it was just one of the many images of grieving we were saturated with in the aftermath of this horrific event. I work in media and I am pretty embarrassed by the way these sorts of stories are covered. There's a point when the coverage crosses the line and becomes something other than news.
posted by missmerrymack at 10:49 AM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks for sharing that picture and its background, ColdChef. It made me cry and that's good.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 10:52 AM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


People still have cameras that click?
posted by koeselitz at 10:53 AM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


People still have cameras that click?
posted by koeselitz


Pick up a 1 Series Canon camera and you'll find it sounds like a machine gun... so yes, lots of clicks.
posted by blaneyphoto at 10:54 AM on February 2, 2013


Pretty much all DSLRs click. They still have shutters.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:00 AM on February 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


And with digital it's much easier to get dozens of shots in a short amount of time. Multiple those clicks by the number of photographers and you can imagine why it was more than just intrusive.
posted by missmerrymack at 11:03 AM on February 2, 2013


One of my favorite photographs of my grandfather is this one, from my dad's funeral. It was taken without his knowledge, permission, or participation.

The caption suggests that it was taken by a friend or family member, though, which I think changes the story quite a lot.
posted by jeather at 11:35 AM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the photo of Victoria Soto (teacher who was murdered at Sandy Hook)'s sister when she found out her sister was among the murdered is a more difficult conversation over the role of a photographer and the subject.

That is a heartwrenching picture, and sad to think that its presence reminds her again of that moment.

I'm glad that at least the subjects of the photography are getting a platform to share their feelings and prompt this discussion.
posted by salvia at 11:53 AM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I worry about setting a standard wherein any photograph that is painful for the subject to contemplate requires permission. It seems like maybe a better approach is for the community to keep the photographers away?
posted by angrycat at 11:57 AM on February 2, 2013


Pick up a 1 Series Canon camera and you'll find it sounds like a machine gun... so yes, lots of clicks.


Machine gun's pretty apt, actually. Professional-level cameras can rattle off up to 11 shots per second. My cheapo SLR that occasionally gets me press passes gets 3 fps. Both of these are faster than the practical full-auto rate of fire for an AK-47 at 100 per minute, or 1.6 per second.

These photos that show true grief are some of the most important work that these photojournalists will do. There's really no way to convey the senseless tragedy of killing and the urgency of a need to stop this gun violence through words when compared to the immediate, visceral impact of photos like this. The news media doesn't have the responsibility to make the world look good.

Maybe this time, Newtown will make a difference. I'm pessimistic after a string of tragedies that resulted in nothing. The NRA would be much better off if photographers kept their distance, in my opinion.

It was probably much less intrusive for the photographer(s) to not ask her for a name later. Her face isn't shown in a recognizable form anyway, she self-identified herself to NPR later, so it's rather interesting that this photo, more than the countless photos that show full-on faces that is the focal point of this discussion.

Photojournalists shouldn't be like paparazzi, taking thousands of shots so they can luck up and catch the perfect one. A good photographer should capture the exact moment and then give someone their space.

Yes, this. You'll only need one, maybe two frames tops if you got your exposure right. A woman praying isn't a basketball player reaching for the dunk, or a speaker at a podium waving his arms.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 12:43 PM on February 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Viewing photos of victims and the grieving makes me very uncomfortable, as much because of their tragedy as for the intrusion on their pain. Do we really need these images in order to understand that something was horrific? The written word is enough for me.
posted by orme at 12:56 PM on February 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Think_Long: All they are saying is that it would have been nice if she had been asked.

The problem with asking for permission is that it changes the picture. The subject will be aware of the camera and the photo won't be the same.

I sat here writing and rewriting a comment about the importance of photography and then Hollywood Upstairs Medical College said it all much better.
posted by swerve at 1:01 PM on February 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I feel it is more important to document the effects of the suffering we inflict on each other than it is to respect those that are suffering. Both are important, of course, but to not document an events like this is to risk sanitizing it for those of us not directly affected, which leads to complacency.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:18 PM on February 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


The problem with asking for permission is that it changes the picture.

Well, you could take the picture and then ask if the subject minds if the photo is shared publicly.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:21 PM on February 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think this is just another example of how we have a media that resorts to cheap, manipulative emotionalism instead of being genuinely informative. Expecting news photographers to take a humanitarian approach after a mass shooting is naive. People die every day from shootings - but they're not "newsworthy." Mass tragedy sells photographs. It creates pageviews to sell ad space, and that's why the photographers are there, exploiting tears for a paycheck.

And we feed it, of course, by thinking that mass tragedies and public figures are worth our disproportionate attention versus the more common tragedies of individual deaths from automobiles, alcohol, war, heart disease, and suicide. This isn't war correspondence. It's not a public service. Let's not pretend we need dozens of photographers swarming the suffering and reporters interviewing traumatized children every time someone shoots up a school. It's gawking, plain and simple.
posted by Wemmick at 2:26 PM on February 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Being called a pedophile, exploitative, paparazzi, nasty, etc, is just part of the job of being a photographer. Being a photographer is about navigating that thin line between empathy and not giving a shit about what people think of you and what you do.
posted by girlmightlive at 2:44 PM on February 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


The viewer gets that burden too, girlmightlive. To look at the photo is to be -- in varying degree -- accessory to the act of taking the photo.
posted by surplus at 2:54 PM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Could you elaborate? The photos would still exist whether someone looks at them or not.
posted by girlmightlive at 2:59 PM on February 2, 2013


Like you said, the photographer can refuse to be judged. So can the viewer. An easy example is the consumer of child porn: "Hey, it's not hurting anyone. It happened whether I see the picture or not."

Or the consumer of paparazzi pics, refusing any role in Princess Diana's death.
posted by surplus at 3:05 PM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Card Cheat: What I find really annoying and evasive is photographs of grieving relatives at funerals. The fact that family members of a drunk driving accident or murder victim are sad is not news - especially if they are not public figures - and does not add anything of value to the public's understanding of the event.
That sounds very honorable, and like something we want to be true, but it is in fact neither. Photos of humans emoting have the power to draw us in, connect to us, and remind us that we are all the same - or more precisely, to make us forget that we are different.

Does "an earthquake in Iran" strike you as powerfully as this picture of a man anguishing over his losses?

Army Sgt James John Regan was killed in the Iraq War, but I'll bet a month's paycheck that this photo of his grieving widow makes him more real, and his loss more palpable, than anything that could be written in an obituary.

Pictures of the grieving humanize and personalize the tragedies. We need them to connect. Words aren't enough to make reality seem real.
posted by IAmBroom at 4:42 PM on February 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


One of the first things I learned about this kind of photography is that if you're going to shooting in a quiet, intimate setting, leave the SLR behind and bring a rangefinder camera. They're practically silent (and completely silent, in the case of some digital models) and far less intrusive than the rat-a-tat-tat of an SLR.

If I take a candid photo, I'll almost always make an effort to engage the subject afterwards, sometimes going as far as to let them review the shot on the camera's screen. But I've never shot a "grieving" moment like this, so I can sympathize with the photographer's instinct to simply want to leave her alone after he got the shot.

These kinds of pictures are important, even necessary. They raise public awareness and help crystallize public opinion more poignantly (or at least more readily) than the written word can.

Look at the Pulitzer winning photographs from the last 40 years or so. You'll see many moments of grief or tragedy, often of unknown subjects, and most certainly taken without prior consent. But then consider how these photos helped change hearts and minds so effectively, and the benefits really begin to outweigh the costs.
posted by ShutterBun at 5:18 PM on February 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mass tragedy sells photographs. It creates pageviews to sell ad space, and that's why the photographers are there, exploiting tears for a paycheck.

Counterpoint
posted by ShutterBun at 5:28 PM on February 2, 2013


[The photographer] says when he took Marie's photo, he knew she was suffering, but that he simply didn't want to bother her. He thought that leaving her alone was the most respectful thing to do.

Come on, that's a weak-ass cop out and he knows it. I don't know what the ideal thing to do in this situation would be, but don't pretend that you didn't get a credit or ask for permission out of some kind of feeling of respect. It's out of cowardice, is what it is.
posted by Scientist at 5:37 PM on February 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


There were at least two dozen photographers there, none of whom asked her permission. Were they all cowards?

Obviously, it's often preferred to engage your subject afterwords, get their name, maybe more of their story, etc. But if an opportunity to do so (respectfuly) doesn't present itself, what can you do?
posted by ShutterBun at 6:27 PM on February 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


From the article:

But, he said, it was his job to make photos to help tell the story to the world

Oh, please. I don't need photos to tell me this particular story. We have these things called "words" which do the job just fine.

"The world" isn't going to be any less well-informed by the exercise of photo-journalistic discretion and respect. I really dislike that self-aggrandizing line of thought amongst pro photogs.

Put that lens in my face when I'm mourning, and be prepared to pull back a bloody stump.
posted by nacho fries at 6:31 PM on February 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think the photo of Victoria Soto (teacher who was murdered at Sandy Hook)'s sister when she found out her sister was among the murdered is a more difficult conversation over the role of a photographer and the subject.
posted by quodlibet at 1:20 PM on February 2 [6 favorites +] [!]


There were two photos that appeared immediately after the shootings, this one and the one of the kids being led across the grass to safety that stand out in my mind. Both are hard to look at because we have just learned that something terrible has happened. The photo of the sister did not identify her at first, as I recall--she was someone looking for information. What is damaging so often, with this and some of the more iconic photos from Sept. 11, for example, is that they are shown over and over and over again in appalling fashion. Because they're no longer informing us of a horror, they are being used as devices to evoke emotion and nothing more. They don't advance the story, they don't tell us something we don't know. I believe there's a distinction between images that inform and those that deliberately twist our feelings for ratings.

Also, EVERYONE is shooting photos these days--I don't go to an event with more than a handful of people without a half dozen cameras being used. I shot several photos of my community as Hurricane Sandy coming in, and my favorite is of three guys holding up their camera phones to shoot the windy conditions. Everyone's a journalist these days. We should get used to it.
posted by etaoin at 6:35 PM on February 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Pictures of the grieving humanize and personalize the tragedies. We need them to connect. Words aren't enough to make reality seem real.

What then to make of pre-photography civilizations, and their traditions of storytelling to share tragedy?

Sure is an awful lot of evocative, humane, humanized writing that predates photography...

Any lack of humanizing effect in writing about this type of tragedy is the fault of the writer, not the medium.
posted by nacho fries at 6:43 PM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sure is an awful lot of evocative, humane, humanized writing that predates photography...

And yet for some reason, a lot of people back then felt compelled to create paintings and drawings of notable events.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:59 PM on February 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


We have these things called "words" which do the job just fine.

Does seeing the word "puppy" make you say "awwwww! Cute!"?
posted by ShutterBun at 7:03 PM on February 2, 2013


No, seeing the word "puppy" doesn't produce any strong emotion one way or the other.

I'm not sure how that ties in with journalism, and the role of using candid photos to tell painful human stories, and the ethics/morals that involves?
posted by nacho fries at 7:07 PM on February 2, 2013


If you're saying that written language can evoke deep emotions, I don't think anybody will disagree. If your point is that pictures can never convey anything that can't be communicated every bit as effectively with words, then I think pretty much everybody ever will disagree.

...Unless you're willing to concede that it'd take a thousand per. Then you might get an even split.
posted by cribcage at 7:25 PM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


If your point is that pictures can never convey

Nope. Not my words, not my intent.

I was disputing the statement that we *need* photos to connect. We don't.

That's not to suggest photos aren't powerful and efficient means of communicating emotion, or that they aren't the superior format for conveying certain types of information.
posted by nacho fries at 7:43 PM on February 2, 2013


These photos that show true grief are some of the most important work that these photojournalists will do. There's really no way to convey the senseless tragedy of killing and the urgency of a need to stop this gun violence through words when compared to the immediate, visceral impact of photos like this. The news media doesn't have the responsibility to make the world look good.

There was a picture of the parents of one of the Sandy Hook victims that really did this for me. A woman in a purple dress at the funeral with her husband who is saying something to her. Her face is a perfect mask of barely holding it together. It drove home that what had happened, had happened to people just like the rest of us and wasn't just a news event or a distant tragedy that had no bearing on people outside that town.
posted by fshgrl at 8:27 PM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Right after Newtown happened, Emily Bazelon had a great article in Slate talking about how major events like that should be covered by a press pool. I think it's a wonderful idea, and it would likely have prevented the situation described here since there would have been a limited number of press to disturb the mourners (including Ms. Marie).
posted by librarylis at 9:14 PM on February 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


I work as a free lance reporter for a small local paper. I do all my own photography with a not very expensive camera, but I have learned how to get decent shots out of it.

The one story I covered that I took a couple pictures of people in mourning made me feel awful. I ended up not using any of the shots and deleting them entirely. All I could think about are the times I have lost someone I loved and what it would feel like to see a picture of my grief on the front page and that was too much for me.

I understand there are people who can handle doing it, but I'll stick with politics and government where most of my pictures are of people talking.
posted by SuzySmith at 10:04 PM on February 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had to photograph two parents who had lost their 18-year-old son in an accident no less than 24 hours before. They were so, so happy that I and the writer were there. They were so generous with their time and thoughts and understanding about what we were trying to do.

I was always amazed at how many people wanted to tell their stories to us, and share them with the community, even in the darkest parts of their lives.

And I was always amazed by the number of people I met who noticed something in the paper seemingly so small and insignificant. So many people were grateful that we showed up.

Not everyone is, but many people are. Can we not assume that just because something may not seem newsworthy to you that it isn't newsworthy or worthwhile to someone else?

And can we also not threaten physical violence against journalists?
posted by girlmightlive at 6:30 AM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


I was disputing the statement that we *need* photos to connect. We don't. That's not to suggest photos aren't powerful and efficient means of communicating emotion, or that they aren't the superior format for conveying certain types of information.

So....we don't need photos to connect, except for the times we do?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:28 AM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yes, exactly.
posted by nacho fries at 10:41 AM on February 3, 2013


Why should I give a fuck about people's "need to connect" and "feel the story on a deeper level"? The invasion of privacy enabled by easy publication of photos is insane. I think it should be illegal to publish a photo of anyone without their permission.
posted by medusa at 3:05 PM on February 3, 2013


So medusas you've stopped looking at candid photos taken in public as a way of protesting then?

Also how is something at a huge public event considered an invasion of privacy? It's anyone's right in the United States to photograph whoever the hell they want so long as its in public. It's been like that for quite a while now so you should get used to it.
posted by WickedPissah at 3:43 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Photographers are not only exercising their 1st Amendment right to take pictures; they're getting paid, and the buyer is using the image to make money. That an individual feels violated to have a moment of prayer exploited is completely understandable. The law has not been violated; common decency has. The answer is for consumers to stop demanding it, to complain to tv stations, newspapers and magazines about invasive reporting, and to stop buying it, to change the channel. This won't happen. People seem to need an emotional connection to tragedies and triumphs, and they seem oblivious to the invasion and exploitation. ugly.
posted by theora55 at 9:12 PM on February 3, 2013


It's really sad that people equate news gathering with invasion of privacy in practically any circumstance. I'm glad that the people who have these fantasies of how the world should work will never make it a reality for the rest of us who want to know what's going on in the world, good or bad.

I feel confident ignoring the wishes of people who actually think newspapers make money off of news photos.

And anyone who says that no one should be able to publish a photo without permission but is enraged when police officers try to do the same thing is a hypocrite.
posted by girlmightlive at 7:49 AM on February 4, 2013


ShutterBun: Sure is an awful lot of evocative, humane, humanized writing that predates photography...

And yet for some reason, a lot of people back then felt compelled to create paintings and drawings of notable events.
You're going to have to provide a completely pictureless account of an event from that period that spurred emotions just as deep in the readers as do the sort of news imagery we used today. Otherwise, all you've shown is that we didn't used to have an easy way to transmit images, and we have no idea if that made the news less emotionally significant to the readers.

The fact that, even in pre-photography days, newspapers often resorted to difficult and expensive drawings (done as woodcuts, originally) seems to suggest that what they knew their stories most lacked was imagery.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:57 AM on February 8, 2013


Is there by chance an alternate link? I missed the post a couple weeks ago, and the link is already bunk.
posted by heyho at 12:46 PM on February 20, 2013


I think this is the article. Not sure. It has the same content, but I can't remember if it was
this exact author.
posted by surplus at 10:28 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thank you.
posted by heyho at 7:54 PM on February 21, 2013


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