Bootcamp Day 4: From Photoshop to Photo Ethics

Today was photo day at Bootcamp and our guest lecturer Denny Gainer gave us a primer on how to take good photos, tips on composition and some mistakes to avoid. We also talked a bit about photoshop, which I’ve never used before, and went over some examples of what does and does not work in audio slide shows.

Couple slideshow examples I wanted to share with people:

Time Lapse of Game 6 of the World Series by Robert Caplin – a lot of fun, and I can’t even imagine the planning and work that went into this.

Waiting for Death – L.A. Times slideshow about Edwin Schneidman, a scholar who worked in suicide prevention, at the age of 90 and facing his own death. Amaaaaazing slideshow, can’t do much better than this I think.

We also talked about Kevin Carter, the photojournalist most famous, and infamous, for his Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of a little girl dying of hunger in the Sudan while a vulture waited nearby. He was vehemently criticized for taking pictures instead of helping the girl (though some websites I’ve found said the critics got the facts of the encounter wrong). Carter had plenty of doubts about his own role as a witness/storyteller. About the practice of “necklacing” which he was the first to capture on film in South Africa, he said:

After having seen so many necklacings on the news, it occurs to me that either many others were being performed (off camera as it were) and this was just the tip of the iceberg, or that the presence of the camera completed the last requirement, and acted as a catalyst in this terrible reaction. The strong message that was being sent, was only meaningful if it were carried by the media. It was not more about the warning (others) than about causing one person pain. The question that haunts me is ‘would those people have been necklaced, if there was no media coverage?

This raises some agonizing questions about being a witness to horrors – what does the very act of witnessing entail, and what are the consequences if we become an audience for these atrocities? On the one hand no one will come help these people if they don’t know what’s going on, on the other, if you’re taking pictures, you’re passing up an opportunity to help and possibly giving the evil-doers a platform.

While surfing around, I found that there is an HBO documentary about Carter (though no trailer available anywhere, frustrating), a feature film about the “Bang Bang Club“, the group of photojournalists in South Africa of which Carter was a part, and a song by the Manic Street Preachers (video here, lyrics here).

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