Eric Kim Street Photography launched an ethics controversy by running two photographs. One, a prize-winning photo of 15-year-old Haitian Fabienne Cherisma, who was shot and killed by Haitian police after stealing two plastic chairs and three framed pictures in the chaos following the nation’s devastating earthquake last year. The other picture showed the origins of the photo and others like it, a crowd of intent photographers in a group, snapping away at the horrible scene like paparazzi trying to get a good shot of Lindsay Lohan.
Kim agreed that the initial photo is crucial news journalism, but worried that the second photo showed callousness on the part of the photographers, who appeared to be exploiting a tragedy.
Judge for yourself. Photojournalism, like medicine, law enforcement, social work, government leadership, and many other professions, is an ethically-conflicting job by nature, because it requires dispassionate calculations in situations where non-professionals would be overwhelmed with emotion. This is purely utilitarian conduct. The pictures need to be taken. The public is served by vivid illustrations of the world and events. Competent and effective pictures require pragmatism, opportunism and professional cool that will often seem repugnant to observers. That is unavoidable, and fully justified by the importance of the work.
Verdict: the photographers are ethical.
But how they do their job sure can look awful.