Year 3 Summer Tasks

So initially thinking about my research project I have decided to look into an area of photography which has interested me more than others, I am thinking of looking into Documentary, after time thinking about some of my favourite photographers such as Larry Burrows, James Nachtwey and Don McCullin I was drawn to thinking more about theirs and other images which stick in my memory, the images that I could remember were the ones with seemed the most controversial the most striking, id say most people could pick one striking photograph from a Natural disaster, War Zone or a place of unrest after looking at these  types photographs i have decide to look a bit deeper into the moral and ethical challenges facing  a photographer. Since deciding to look at this area i have found some short extracts based around the ethics and morals of image making.

Photojournalism – The Professionals Approach – Kenneth Kobre 

The first extract i have taken was a simple outline of the choice posed to a photographer at the point of creating images.

The Dilemma – Personal Choice Vs Professional Responsibility – This is not unique E.g the defender who is charged to defend a rapist whom he knows is guilty  Or the doctor who has the training an resources to artificially prolong the life of a suffering patient

One of the first extracts I found was based around an ethical framework which photographers turn to when faced in challenging situation.

Foundations of Ethical Decision Making

Utilitarian – here the overriding consideration is “The greatest good for the greatest number of people” The Utilitarian approach recognises that photojournalism provides information critical to a democratic society, photography mite show the horrors of war, Accident and the hardship of poverty, therefore it is right to take and publish the images, without images specifically voters cannot make informed decisions E.g A photograph of a vehicle accident may force voters to pass a law making compulsory air bag use.

Absolutist – The absolutist viewpoint is that of “Individuals have certain rights” among them the right to privacy , these rights are absolute regardless of the benefit to society says this principle.taking a picture of the distraught family of a drowned child and then publishing it my encourage others to be more cautious, but invading the privacy of their grief  regardless of the benefits is not acceptable according to the absolute rights argument. 

The Golden Rule – Another of the ethical cornerstones is the Judeo-Christian precept “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” this rule too can sometimes conflict both with professional standards and with actions that mite benefit a democratic society in need of information.

Compassion, Morality and The Media – Compassion fatigue and the ethics of the journalistic field – Keith Tester

Alasdiar Macintyre – The field is the terrain of the photographers and reporters insofar as their professional character is determined by it, they will become possessed of an habitual disposition to act in one way as opposed to any other. For example the photographer will become disposed towards making the images which represent what has happened without worrying about the question of whether or not it may have been more appropriate to have intervened rather than have just pressed the shutter . 

Media, Culture and Morality – The Media and Morality – Keith Tester 

Here I am  using the word ‘Moral’ in a philosophical sense. With the word I am referring to the ways in which we distinguish between conduct that is right and wrong; how it is that we act and think in accordance with principles of the right and the wrong”

” The media are important channels through which individuals and audiences become aware of what is said to be right and wrong”

Michael Ignatieff –  The images we see on the television screen are incapable of asserting anything, they contain no moral message except the moral message we choose to take from them.


After seeing a lot of advertising for the new Cecil Beaton exhibition on at the Imperial War museum I was interested in going to check it out, I had previously visited the museum to see the Don Mccullin Exhibition which I found quite impressive especially due to the depth of information provided about the photographer as well as the images. Not knowing much about Beaton’s work I went to this exhibition only having seen a few images on the museum website, from reading the information on the website I knew that the exhibit covered the work of Cecil Beaton during his time travelling and documenting for the ministry of information beginning in 1940 the work featured covers images from a range of locations such as his time in Europe, North Africa through to Burma and India.

My first thought of the exhibition were much the same as the other exhibitions I had seen in the space,  throughout the exhibition the photographs were presented in varying ways some small prints all the way to prints covering wall to ceiling, for me the choice to display images in this way was key to the success of how the photographs are communicated with the viewers, two such cases were two large light boxes one displayed an image of a bomb damaged church altar and window, the IWM had decided to display this to a life size proportions making the impact of the image far more powerful, on the other hand the majority of photographs were displayed in a very structured way but still engaging because of the need to have to approach the images closely, one such example of this was an image of a young girl who had been hospitalised during an air raid this photograph was displayed much smaller in comparison to some of the prints but in a way this allowed me to look closer and if anything real iterated the fact that the subject in the image was a young child.

One of the main points I was left thinking about after the exhibition was the comparisons i had tried to draw between some photographs with similar subject matter and Beaton’s work, unlike most of the photographers I could recall Beaton’s work seem to be different although I felt from this exhibition that Beaton’s work aimed to communicate the overall idea of observation and documenting the situations in which he found himself but I can not help but feel that a lot of his images were composed by him and the scenes arranged unlike other images of the same style which take a more strictly observational approach. One such image that stuck in my mind is one which was photographed from Beaton’s time in India, the photograph shows a soldier drinking tea next to a tea van wit the logo ” The Soldier Drinks Tea” along the side of the van, to me this is one example of this idea of a structured image unlike a clear documentary stance on the photographs which I have seen before saying all this the exhibition for me had great success displaying the photographs and for someone who is new to Cecil Beaton s work I would definitely recommend it.

So now I am approaching my final year at university and this means that I now should be thinking about my research task, at the moment I have been looking into areas in which my interest is strong and feel that I can take further, a lot of the bodies of work I have been drawn to lately are simplistic documentary pieces what I like to see as honest portrayals, honest being the key word and the idea I am thinking about looking into. One example of this sort of work is Infidel a book containing images photographed by Tim Hetherington , I have briefly talked about his work before but after thinking about my research project I thought I would look in a little more detail at the book.


I bought this book about 9 months ago as a follow up to seeing a related film titled Restrepo which was made by Hetherington and writer Sebastian Junger the book and the film are both documentary pieces that show the day to day lives of the soldiers of 503 Infantry Regiment & 173 Airborne whilst on a years deployment to the Korengal Valley Afghanistan, the film is named after a medic who lost his life and whose death subsequently lead to the establishing of  Operating Base Restrepo where most of the film and photographs are shot from.

So above is one of the main images taken from the book throughout the book there are prints alongside the photographs of the tattoos of the soldiers in the case of this photograph the tattoo on the chest of the soldier was used for the title of the book, for me this book is a perfect example of a succesful body of documentary work  through the book the images vary from photographs of sleeping soldiers, combat scenes to breathtaking landscape images but despite the varying types of images for me the photographs all communicate the same idea of honesty of the situation in which the photographs are shot, for example looking at the image below which shows one soldier tending to a wounded soldier and taking into account the others in the book from a scene like this one to a photograph of the men in their downtime there is an overriding sense of Tim Hetherington trying to say this is what it is instead of trying to create an image these photographs are purely made from being in a place and documenting what unfolds without becoming part of the situation once again going back to trying to create an honest portrayal .

So as examples go of documentary photography I think this is up there with the best of it below I have added a short video of an interview with Tim Hetherington about the launch of the book in 2010