Ethics in the World of Photojournalism

John Moore and Paul Nevin are both photojournalists. It is their job to capture moments that tell a story and impact those who see them. These photos should “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” But it is also their job to make sure their representations regarding non-Western populations are are ethic and avoid stereotypes.

For the majority of their work covering issues of global health in Africa, each photojournalist was ethical according to the Visual Journalism Tips provided by the DARTCenter.

Moore captured the early moments of the Ebola outbreak in Liberia in 2014 for Getty Images. Through his photographs he hoped that his work would influence mobilizing medical aid and instilling a sense of urgency concerning the issue.

His work not only  included pictures of the actual sickness but several pictures of local residents advocating for Ebola awareness and participating in prayer. He focused on the emotional pain of the locals and loved ones of those who contracted the virus.

Establishing connection was difficult for Moore since he wore protective clothing and could not come in contact with anyone who was infected with Ebola, but he claims he likes to get consent from people before photographing, which is the ethical thing to do.

Because of his little contact with people, it’s unfortunate that he photographed Ibrahim Fambulle as he stumbled to his death from sickness and head trauma. I don’t think there was much Moore could do to prevent the man from falling, but he could have possibly tried to help the man up since he wore protection.

During his time in Liberia, Moore wanted more media coverage to help the situation, but for the burial team who had to burn the bodies of victims, the media was not invited. Yet, Moore displayed a few photographs pertaining to that. I think he should have respected those wishes not only for the victims but for their family members. Overall, I think Moore truly cared for the situation in Liberia and he shared plans of returning to West Africa.

He did provide a viewers discretion at the beginning of a short video.

Nevin’s global issue was a bit different as he covered a Seattle based non-profit training program saving lives of mothers and their babies in Kenya. This training program provided realistic training sessions to manage childbirth emergencies to combat challenges of “staffing shortages and inferior quality.”

His photographs were not as revealing or risky as an Ebola outbreak might be. I found his photographs to be “more ethical” than Moore’s work and his captions provided more depth.

Because there was no video with Nevin’s post, like there was with Moore, there are many unanswered questions. Was there consent from the mothers, their children, and the medical workers? Have the photos been staged in any way, particularly pertaining to the training sessions.

While Nevin is still ethical, the story he covered was more about PRONTO International than the Kenyan women and hospital staff who are affected by the issues. He could have better connected with the people he photographed.

The issue also assumes that Kenya needs the United States’ help, and while the PRONTO program helped, it only further perpetuates the stereotypes that African countries can’t help themselves. (That issue may be left to the reader to decide).

But in regards to photojournalism, I think Nevin served his part well.

Documenting human suffering is a difficult thing to do. To answer any lasting questions, this video presentation by Donna DeCesare is a good example of how she as a photojournalist makes sure her work is both ethical and captivating.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s