In the folder on twentieth century photojournalism you see examples of three award-winning photos: the first of the aftermath of the atomic bomb detonation over Hiroshima, the next of a young girl engulfed in napalm flames during the Vietnam War, and the last of an undernourished girl in what is now Sudan. All three are very disturbing images, yet the respective photographers felt compelled to share them. They wanted to shock viewers by presenting these atrocities in order to promote awareness and compassionate social action.
Do you think this line of thinking is always a good one? When might photojournalists go too far?
Below is an article about photojournalism. The author, Teju Cole, proposes another perspective: photojournalism can be used to exploit distressed and disempowered people for political purposes.
We have explored the historic use of arts as political propaganda in class (think back to the Ara Pacis). In addition to Cole’s examples, can you think of other instances in which photojournalism is/has been used to promote the interest of the powerful?
For this paper, imagine that you are a contemporary photojournalist (which, given that there are cameras on nearly every cell phone, we are) and that you are sent somewhere in the world to cover a disturbing event (hint: this could take place in the US). Talk about your decision to publish a photo to inform people about the event — or your choice not to do so. Explain and justify your choice, and also, give a counter-example; that is, discuss the argument of another photojournalist who might choose the opposite course.
In the course of your paper, reference Teju Cole’s article on the ethics of photojournalism at least once.
2 pages, double-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman font, include citations.
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