Photojournalism: The power of a photo

Sometimes the photos that accompany a news story are what make it. Photos grab a reader’s attention and have the power to evoke a passion, telling a story words can’t.

Some such photos become iconic, such as Kevin Carter’s of a Sudanese child being stalked patiently by a vulture and Eddie Adams’ of an execution of a Viet Cong captain during the Vietnam War.

While these photos are stirring and thought-provoking, they have also sparked heated discussion and controversy due to what you cannot see.

Take Carter’s photo for example. What happened to the child? Why did he choose to take a photograph instead of immediately helping her?

“The man adjusting his lens to take just the right frame of her suffering might just as well be a predator, another vulture on the scene,” said the St. Petersburg Times.

These are exactly the kinds of harsh criticisms Carter received when the photo was published in The New York Times in March of 1993. In addition to these criticisms, Carter also took photos of other tragic events that led him to fall into a depression and eventually take his life.

While many could argue photojournalism can tell a story words can’t and can add more depth to a story, do we ever stop to think how the photo was obtained, what is going on outside the frame of the camera or how the photographer feels?

Eddie Adams is still alive today and was able to speak out about his contentious execution photo. He has a few harsh comments about his initial reaction to taking the photograph, but later goes on to explain.

Therefore, we the public need to consider all aspects of a journalistic photograph—the things we can see and those we cannot—before we can give it a solid grade.

This entry was posted in International Press, Law and ethics, Multimedia, News coverage and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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