Category Archives: Part 3

Page 79: Exercise 3.4: Post-photojournalism.

Page 79: Exercise 3.4


Brief: Look at the work of one of the practitioners discussed in this project. Write a short analysis of one of their projects or the practitioner’s overall approach. Comment on how appropriate you think their creative responses are. What is your impression of the evolving nature of photojournalism?

There are three requirements in this exercise:

  1. Choose a practitioner and do a short analysis of his work.
  2. Comment on the appropriateness of his creative responses.
  3. Give my impression of the evolving nature of photojournalism.

  1. The photojournalist is Tim Hetherington whose work I came across by accident, as I shun war photography generally, three years ago, . There was something about his images which presented a different perspective on the subject so I bought his book ‘Infidel’.  The book has an introduction by Sebastian Junger who was with Tim in Afghanistan for a total of five months, sometimes together and sometimes separately. They worked together on assignment with one platoon in the Korengal Valley, which is known as the deadliest valley in Afghanistan. They recorded video to document their experiences, and this footage went on to form the basis for Restrepo, the movie, the outpost where Junger and Hetherington were embedded, which was named after a combat medic, Juan Restrepo, killed in action.

In the introduction, Junger sets out the situation & conditions in which Tim produced his work: “There was nothing at the outpost – no running water, no hot food, no communication with the civilian world, no alcohol, no drugs or girls or entertainment of any kind – and so if the enemy didn’t shoot at you, it was pretty much a wasted day in your life … it was very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that without combat there was no story to tell. … I remember one stifling June day in the middle of a real combat drought – nothing for two weeks straight – and almost every soldier at the outpost was asleep … I remember sitting there thinking that this was pretty much hell on earth: twenty guys trapped on a hilltop with the heat and the dust and the tarantulas and the flies and nothing to do but wait for someone to try to kill them.” (1. p15)  Tim came creeping through the camp and said: “You never see them like this, they always look so tough, but, when they’re asleep they look like little boys. They look the way their mothers probably remember them.” (idem) and this started Sebastian writing.

When I look at the images, I do not see the anguish normally associated with war photography. In the portraits of the soldiers I see people having fun, a sense of brotherhood, a community displaying emotions seen in normal, everyday life. The men are human beings with normal, everyday needs and expressions. It is this ability to see the person inside the uniform which I thought was breathtaking in the work.

           In the film, Restrepo the movie, as Junger explained, “It’s a completely apolitical film.         We wanted to give viewers the experience of being in combat with soldiers, and so our cameras never leave their side. There are no interviews with generals; there is no moral or political analysis. It is a purely experiential film.” (2)

  1. How appropriate is his creative response?

Tim found stories to tell in moments when there appeared to be none. He found ways of telling those stories in ways nobody else seems to have found relevant: the poster, next to a bunk bed, of a naked pin-up woman behind an insect strip covered in flies / ?, hanging just in front of the woman is a fly swat , while above the poster is a black spider happy not to be caught on the insect strip.   Torment in many guises caught in an image. Hetherington found ways to reflect the living human element in a war zone / the deadliest outpost in Afghanistan. Could anyone be more creative in such circumstances.

In the video on what constitutes conceptual photojournalism (3), Broomberg and Chanarin were so dissatisfied when they were asked to judge the World Press Photo Awards that there were so many clichéd images from Afghanistan and Iraq which seemed to repeat the ideas photographed in the Vietnam war, that they started asking questions of photography in a war zone: What constitutes legitimate photographs of soldiers at war? They refer to an image in the competition by John Moore taken in Rawalpindi on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in 2007 which acted as a catalyst for their conceptual work. The image is blurred and askew & had no information except attesting to the fact that he, the witness, was there. This image made the photographers ask the question “ How much does a photograph of an event need to represent that event to be evidence of the event?   How much do we need to see for the image to act as evidence? They asked the question ‘How can we be subversive as embedded photographers in Afghanistan?’  The only way was to refuse to take a picture, to deny the photograph; the embedding form which photographers have to sign does not allow them to take images of dead or wounded soldiers or of enemy fire & no visual evidence of conflict at all. Given those restrictions, the pair went to Afghanistan, with digital a camera and a roll of light sensitive paper and took what has since become that icon of what to them is true, & the antithesis of photography “The Day Nobody Died” (2008).  The images they took with their digital camera they deleted.

Which of the two bodies of work is more creative? If the embedding rules given to us in the video by Broomberg are correct, then Hetherington contravened them by showing a dead/wounded soldier (1. p80) which gives the punctum in the body of work which otherwise would lose its gravitas. In my opinion, Broomberg & Chanarin do not enlighten me regarding any aspect of the war – their piece simply tells me that they were somewhere where the light affected their light-sensitive paper in that way. Their work makes me reflect on war imagery generally, and I agree with them that it has neither changed nor affected opinions or the outcomes of war much over the incessant world conflicts. They claim that their work is anti-conceptual. Val Williams refers to their work as “idiosyncratic, inventive and iconoclastic. … end products which are very much encompassed within the terms of artistic partnership – a free-ranging thought process contained within very particular boundaries of carefully tempered and organized working practices.”(4). Williams claims that their work is “work which emerges is a combination of art practice, archival experiments and a very singular form of photojournalism.” (idem)

Tim Hetherington presented the war in ways not done before, but, given the embedding rules, and wanting to present conventional images, there was little else he could have done. He gave his subjects a voice: he recorded their views of their situation at the end of the book. In the film ‘Restrepo the movie’ which he did with Sebastian Junger and which won and was nominated for multiple awards, Hetherington brought the internal world of the soldier into sharp focus. How appropriate was his creative response? Given his restrictions as an embedded photographer, in my opinion it was more resourceful response than a creative one. Had I not seen the work of Broomberg and Chanarin, I would have said Tim’s work was very creative.

  1. My impression on the evolving nature of photojournalism.  Given the emerging democratized photojournalism of the people by the people, and Fred Ritchin’s prognosis that we will not have conventional newspapers after 2020, I can see that the light at the end of the tunnel for the career is a train coming the other way. The only thing which will temporarily slow down its demise is if the authenticity of the images supplied by the public is brought into question time and again. The quality of the images in terms of composition and technical quality,is no longer important; in fact, the grainier and the more out of focus an image is, the more it is considered authentic and it is the authenticity of the digital image which can so easily be altered which has damaged the whole digital apparatus for conventional photojournalists. It does not appear to matter that analogue images have been altered before but it is the ease with which this can be done which seems to cause offence. I suspect that the UGC is so popular because the public feels that they could have taken the image – it makes people feel that they were there. The UGC practice has blurred the boundaries between the formal photojournalist and the smartphone user – there is no more us & them. The newspaper content is constantly changing: like the focus groups highlighted in the series “The century of the self”, newspaper editors are aware of what readers want; what expands circulation figures is not in-depth debates and questioning but infotainment; not political analysis but sensational images. In his analysis of Restrepo the movie, Junger stresses that “there is no moral or political analysis. It is a purely experiential film.” (2) In cash-strapped newspapers, what the people want is what the people get. Fleet street is no longer the hive of news industry – there are no more newspapers being produced there. As Fred Ritchin indicates, we will soon be producing our own equivalents of on-line social media newspaper articles in our own virtual communities.  Our social media pages already circulate articles from the papers and other news media read and shared by people who have the same interests as we do – but they have their own journalists with their own smartphones.  Big digital or analogue cameras can put their users, seen as ‘professionals’,  at risk if they are in sensitive situations like the London riots of 2010


  1. Hetherington, T. 2010. Infidel. Chris Boot.
  2. Wikipedia: Sebastian Junger
  6. Ritchin,F. 2013. Bending the Frame. Aperture.

Page 75: ex. 3.3: Breaking the news.

Page 75: Exercise 3.3

Breaking the news.

Brief: Read this blog about the New York Post’s image of a man about to be killed by a subway train. Read the details of the blog carefully and write up your own analysis of the event. Comment on the ethical decision of the commuter who took the picture.


My analysis of the event:

Is the event in question the publishing of the photograph, i.e. the intent of the newspaper editorial team, or the taking of the photo, i.e. the intent of the commuter / photographer? In both cases, we can only surmise because the intentions are not given in the article.


The intent of the newspaper team:

Possible intentions: because the photo appeared on the front page, neither the victim nor the photographer were well-known and no reasons were given overtly or covertly for publishing the image, we can assume that sensationalism / ‘lurid curiosity’ (2), which leads to increased circulation and therefore revenue, was at the heart of the m.o. in this case, in my opinion.


The article (2) tells us that ethical guidance such as ““Minimize Harm” section of the SPJ’s Code of Ethics, a set of working guidelines voluntarily adopted by journalism schools and many working journalists. The section advises journalists to show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. It also says to avoid pandering to “lurid curiosity” and to show “good taste” when covering gruesome subjects.” (2)

Photojournalists are guided by their own newspaper’s code of ethics which covers the editorial team too. In this case the commuter / photographer is not bound by any ethical standards, but those who publish the images are. John Long, for 15 years chair of the NPPA ethics committee states: “Newspapers have an obligation to publish images, even horrifying ones, that might affect public debate over important issues … we as a society could learn from them and make decisions for society,” (1). I have no idea what we would learn from the publication of this image. Long adds: ““If I was the night editor, I don’t think I’d run it.” However, he adds, “it’s a contract between a paper and its readers, and it’s different from paper to paper. The New York Post is not known for its subtlety in taste decisions.”

Long reflects my analysis for the coverage of this incident by the NYP.


The intent of the commuter / photographer:

The stated intention for taking the photo was given as wanting to warn the train driver that something was amiss. Like the writer of both quoted articles, I don’t subscribe to it because he could have used the torch on his phone rather than the camera to alert the driver. If he had the presence of mind to use the flash on his camera, he could have had the same presence of mind to intervene in the situation by pulling the victim back, I think. Had I been there, I think I would have frozen to the spot & not been able to do anything given the pending disaster as I saw it happening, possibly in slow motion.



Of the commuter’s responsibility, John Long of the National Press Photographers’ Association ethical committee: “Your job as a human being, so to speak, outweighs your job as a photojournalist,” he adds: “ You live your life with the values you got somewhere along the line,” he says. “I do not approach photojournalism as the be all and end all. It’s an honorable profession, but the values I bring to my job come from other sources.” (1)


I am certain that, given the facility of taking and uploading images to social networking sites, we are also aware of the consequences of our actions. There is that time delay between those two actions in which we must be aware of what we are doing and why.


The case often cited which raises this thorny ethical question is that of award-winning photojournalist, Kevin Carter, who took the image in the Sudan of a starving child on her way to a feeding station, being seemingly stalked by a vulture and that Kevin committed suicide shortly afterwards: “an act some attributed to guilt over what he had witnessed.” (1)


In his book Bending the Frame, Fred Ritchin also tells us that shortly after having been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for that image, one of Kevin’s closest colleagues, Ken Oosterbrook, had died, killed in the cross-fire in a town outside Johannesburg. “Dealing with his own issues, including drug addiction and guilt, Carter was distraught … he committed suicide leaving a note explaining that he was ‘depressed … without phone … money for rent … money for child support … money for debts … money!!! I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings & corpses & hunger & pain … of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners.   I have gone to join Ken if I am that lucky.” (Ritchin Pp 22-23).


So the implied cause and effect in the article (1) behind the suicide was not that straight forward. The same may be said of the commuter in this case who had probably never sold an image to the press in the past. As with the practices of photojournalists in the past, theirs is the responsibility to provide the images, the editorial staff take on the responsibility for how / if the image is broadcast. In this case, we are not dealing with a photojournalist who has been schooled in the ethical implications of diverting a course of action he has been asked to cover; could we be possibly dealing with a commuter who sees the role of a newspaper as an agent for the dissemination of infotainment?

There is enough material to cover this topic for a Ph.D proposal, never mind exercise 3.3 of a section of a module of a B.A. degree.




  3. Ritchin, F.: 2013. Bending the frame. Aperture Foundation.

Page 72, Ex 3.2: a controversial image

Page 72: Ex 3.2

Brief:  Find one or two recent photographs within the public domain that you consider to be ‘controversial’ or to transgress social barriers. Write a short entry in your learning log (up to 500 words) about why you feel it is controversial.

A controversial image which transgresses social barriers.

From the Mailonline page:

Get ’em off! Armed police order Muslim woman to remove her burkini on packed Nice beach – as mother, 34, wearing Islamic headscarf is threatened with pepper spray and fined in Cannes (Mail online)

The image, which can be found here , has the following text attached to it: “The woman is then ordered to remove the blue garment. Most of the other people on the beach on a sweltering summer’s day were wearing trunks or bikinis.

The implications are that 1) the woman is challenging the status quo by not wearing what would be natural to wear on such a hot summer’s day; 2. She is not like the rest – her difference made her a target.  The ignorance shown by the editorial team on clothes worn in areas where there is little protection from a fierce sun further distances the subject in this image from the viewers.

This image and the text with which it appears transgress social barriers from a western culture because they are perverse: they exude sexism (why couldn’t the state use female police officers to handle the case?), racism (she appears to be the only woman of colour on the beach)and ageism (younger women were not threatened) on the part of the police officers, and the series of which this is just one image, reflects a voyeurism which embodies all the other perversions.

The complicity of the photographer in all the images compounds the attack on the woman.

The complicity of the newspaper editorial pack in all the images on its website compounds the attack on the woman.

The complicity of the press agencies who distribute the images compounds the attack on the woman.

This image reminds me of the images taken by Nazi photographers of the Jews in the concentration camps, analysed extensively in The Cruel Radiance by Suzie Linfield: like this woman, the Jews were helpless in the face of a nationalist ideology which objectified them.

Should this have any place in a society governed by the European Convention of Human Rights which was based on the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights which, in turn and ironically, was based on the Code Napoleon? In the preamble to the UDHR we find the following opening sentence:

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

In which way is the woman in these series of images, forced to undress in public, treated with dignity? Her difference sets her apart and she appears therefore, to be a vulnerable target to the state.

If we look at the same image covered by the Guardian here, we find that her face has been obliterated (presumably to restore a modicum of dignity). The text under the Guardian image reads: French agency AFP saw a ticket given to the woman by police, which said she was not ‘wearing an outfit respecting good morals and secularism’. Photograph:

 The mission statement of London based Vantage News on its website is:  Vantage News is a news/photo agency with a difference. Vantage News aims to provide the best, most professional and honest service to its suppliers and clients.

Is VN flicking off responsibility for providing the image by stating that Agence France Presse saw the ticket being given to the woman and so, by implication, called all the other news agencies to the party?

The same image appears on the front pages of most European national papers.  The composition  and technical qualities of the image make me think that it is taken by a press photographer who had been primed about the swoop and so could control all his/her honed skills in image making; it was not an example of democratised image making, in my opinion.

This image transgresses the social barriers set up by the European Convention of Human Rights in not affording this woman her human right to dignity.  The French law which had permitted this attack to take place has since been revoked and the attack declared illegal.  It has not stopped French Police going up to bathers wearing  hijab in the water and asking them to leave – again this is transmitted via images taken by photojournalists.

The cynic in me, however, makes me believe that this could be a huge set-up by the French press agencies to stir up public sentiments against Muslims at a time when there are no other catastrophe news to keep photojournalists working. Maybe.




Exercises: P. 65:Fred Ritchin’s lecture on key aspects of the digitalisation of photography and its future.

My notes taken from watching the lecture given by Fred Ritchin on “Toward a Hyperphotography”

  1. Ritchin was frustrated by his experiences in magazine reporting where there seemed to be a formula whereby the images were used to illustrate the text & different people made arbitrary decisions in how the pics were used. 1982 National Geographic moved the pyramids on their cover & people realized that you could manipulate photos just as you can edit texts = digital revolution in which we do only what the manufacturers allow us to do . It’s just a photo, people are not going to believe it.
  2. People in photography don’t know what is going on in it, whereas people outside it do.
  3. Chicago Times fired all their photographers on the same day & gave iphones to their reporters because they could take their own pics. So why do we need photographers & people, incl professional photographers doo not know how to answer it.
  4. 1984 he took a pic of the NY skyline & got someone to manipulate it – if people begin to understand that manipulation, how will they ever trust pics = power relationship bet people in power & those poorer who need help.
  5. Photos are not fixed in time because they can be changed.
  6. Editor of Time on photo of O.J.Simpson: A common mug shot raised to the level of art with no sacrifice to truth.
  7. Tell people u have manipulated an image.
  8. Photography doesn’t trust itself anymore; it has reduced its vocabulary; they are 1930s driven in journalistic, documentary images. Work seems corporate & weighted to 1 point of view.
  9. Superimpose images so that when the mouse goes over it you see the other – the setup / secret not to be shared = the point of view changes.
  10. By rolling the mouse over the picture u could get a heading, the photographer’s opinion, other contextualizing info.
  11. The mainstream of photography is imploding. Raymond Depardon: Foreign affairs he would run a photo & a written text = 30 yrs ago a blog= Harlem girls having fun = photo with a written piece.
  12. People on social media = amateurs – photographs = it’s happening to us; Professional photographers frame their pics & the message = it’s happening to them. Enormous meaning difference between them & us; it’s not over there it’s here.
  13. We have so many images that we don’t know what to do with them, curate them. Several attempts to curate it – to verify the images.
  14. Susan Sontag: all war photos are seductions to go to war & found only 1 that is anti – war “Dead men speak” Geoff Wall put the pic together = pretending to be in Afghanistan – actors, pretending to be soldiers in Vancouver pretending to be Afghanistan. Geoff Wall said:”I didn’t make dead men speak to comment on the Afghan war, I did it to make a picture of dead men conversing.” With all the billions of images how can she only find 1 which is anti-war.
  15. So why was she saying that? Peace photographers don’t exist. War photographers can say they are anti-peace.
  16. How do you go to war without thinking of peace? Or are you just using the people for good pictures?
  17. Family album: John Berger: Don McCullen: how can you see that pain ? If it’s of them it is bearable – you wouldn’t do it for a family = it’s us.
  18. You don’t think that during a war, they are just blowing each other up , you don’t think that people have personal family times. The pics make them human again.
  19. The family album makes them one of us.
  20. Susan Meiselas has mounted the pics from the Sandinista war”Reframing history” & put them in the places she photographed them so that the young people can see their history = she’s giving back to the community.
  21. Resistance: do something differently if what you are saying doesn’t make sense.
  22. 1996 after peace treaty between muslims & croats : they wanted people to investigate not in a linear way : the reader feels that they don’t know what is going on, what do you do, where do you start?
  23. JR: women are heros: women bear the brunt for all the physical work & are not respected for it. Puts the large images on the roofs of houses & he waterproofs them: useful.
  24. Photograph the future so it does not happen.
  25. Dec 1968 – the earth from outer space: photograph from outer space could say we’ve got to do something about the earth. Today there is no such credibility in photography.
  26. How do you filter all the images so that u know what is going on in the world.
  27. 2017 no more front pages. No way of keeping /coherent way of seeing things. What would you put on the front page? Different people would put together something that we could all discuss.
  28. We all have the tools of publishing & production to make things happen.
  29. Gideon Mendell: AIDS anti-retroviral project of following a woman with HIV AIDS for a month & his work made a difference to 8m people.
  30. If your pictures aren’t good enough you don’t read enough: Pappageorge.

Ex: 3.1

From “After photography”

The basic question Ritchin asks is: How do we use a quickly changing medium in a way that can respond to “some of photography’s frailties, its lies and limitations” now that nobody trusts digital photographs any more?

“Not only are bytes, unlike chemistry and film, not palpably physical but they become metaphors for a depiction of reality as informational. While photography is conventionally thought of as depicting the present to be seen as the past, we have also, unbeknownst to ourselves, been making coded images of the future — our own as transformed humans, or what some are calling, with justification, ‘post-humans.’”(p. 42)

Ritchin embraces the idea of “photographing the future” by digitally inserting ourselves into scenes in advance of being there. Rather than waste the time of posing in front of the cathedral of Notre Dame, we could send our friends those manufactured images and proceed to actually exploring the streets, culture and conversations of an unfamiliar new land. No longer will the checklist of “most-photographed” sites separate us from actually being present at the scene. (1)

Ritchin also rethinks how the changing relation to a photograph in the digital age as something mutable compares to memory. Our recollections are not photographic. They are subject to mood, timing, emotion, time and selectivity. Photographs could easily become more of an expression of memory than a perceived-as-subjective document. “The past would be recreated, rethought and reinvented, the process more resembling an oral tradition where divergent views of the community are taken into account.” (p. 58)

“The photographic frame would then move beyond an excerpt from a visible reality, radiating outward, connecting to ideas, events and images that were previously thought of as external. The photographer, cognizant that framing both does and does not exclude the rest of the world, could then try to be more present, aware, less confident that it is the camera that will ‘remember.’ And as author and viewers grapple over time with the photograph’s meanings, creating new links and interpretations, it will become evident that the photographic process necessarily involves an ensuing contextualization. Rather than encouraging forgetfulness, the photograph might invite too much remembering.” (p. 59) 

“The new photograph will be read and understood differently as people comprehend that it does not descend from the same representational logic either of analog photography or of painting that preceded it.” (Ritchin, 2009, p. 144)

Toward a Hyperphotography”: Fred Ritchin

Visual examples of “cubistically unmasking photo opportunities”:

In “Unmasking Photo Opportunities Cubistically” Ritchin notes that we should contextualize the invented realities by including documentation of the whole planned scene from different perspectives.

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 12.06.24.png

In a 1994 photograph we see U.S. soldiers invading Haiti, lying on the airport tarmac pointing their rifles at unseen enemies. The heroic image supports the claim of the U.S. government that it is invading to support democracy, liberating a neighboring country from a dictatorship.

The curious reader [of the future], however, might want to place the computer cursor on the image. Another photograph appears from beneath it; it is of the same scene but from another vantage point. U.S. soldiers are pointing their guns not at any potential enemy but at about a dozen photographers who, lined up in front of them, are photographing them. In fact, the photographers are the only ones doing any shooting

The contradictory “double image” is cubist; reality has no single truth. Perhaps these soldiers are heroes, and perhaps the U.S. government is justified in its invasion. Maybe they have to lie prone on the tarmac, anxious about an unseen enemy. The additional photograph asks the question “Is this for real?” Or is this a simulation of an invasion created for the cameras? (4)

2.  Using cctv in the homes of elderly people who live far away from their families, Digital Family Portraits: Supporting Peace of Mind for Extended Family Members, explores ways in which layered portraits can be hung on the wall (in place of a static 2D image) or on a bookshelf, or on the mantelpiece, & creates collections of the subjects over time and helps the distant family to see if/how the elderly are coping with their eating, mobility etc. Similarly, the subject can see what the rest of the family is up to. Through reporting as in the digital album, the creators have designed work to illustrate the lives of loved ones abroad, and provide methods for the work to be contextualized by the subjects, adding depth and multiple perspectives to the story telling.

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 13.54.28.png(5)

  1. Ritchin argues in “Photographing the Future so a Version of It Does Not Happen,” that we could illustrate visions of the result of our actions. With the reader let in on the idea, we paint in visceral images the predictions of a warmed planet, for example.

4.  Multiple points of view around a single news event or story:

“Enfranchising the Subject/s,”: we give a voice back to the subject of the photograph, first, by making no assumptions about them, but also by handing the camera directly to them.  This all started on 7th July, 2005 when people in the Kings Cross tube in London took images with their phones of what was happening around them: democratised reportage started there.

5.  FR wants us to be aware of the consequences of our work & that there is never just 1 side to a story.

6.  In considering how digital photography has, in the 21st C, changed how we see images and, looking back to a time between the camera obscure and digital imaging, we can ask how did the Kodak Brownie affect the practice of 20th C image making?

Multiple points of view on a single news event or story:


Jeremy Corbyn gets seat on Glasgow serviceScreen Shot 2016-08-27 at 14.39.45.png

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 14.41.15.png
The original image which sparked the story.

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 14.43.33.png

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  2. Ritchin,F. 2009 After photography.W.W.Norton & Co.
  3. Ritchin, F.: Bending the frame