Sunday, August 23, 2009

What Was the Camera's Role in the Behavior?

Tianenman Square (above) and Tea Party protesters: Which was affected by the camera?^

Roanoke Times Managing Editor Michael Stowe wrote an interesting piece this a.m. about a "complaint about a feature photo [by photographer Kyle Green] we published showing a 13-year-old Roanoke boy jumping off a second-story stairway onto a trampoline."

One reader was outraged at the publication of something she thought might promote the activity. Stowe asked around for the rationale in the publishing and ultimately agreed with it. I wrote the following letter to Stowe:

"Your photo controversy column this a.m. was interesting but for the omission of one vital element: Did your photographer's presence at the site encourage the children to engage in dangerous behavior?

"As a photographer, I have seen the very fact that I have a camera in the presence of people--children and adults--suddenly change the nature of what they are doing. Children act out, adults pose or run away. It's the nature of the beast and a camera is a powerful tool to affect a situation in positive and negative ways.

"Two examples of a photographer's presence or lack of profile affecting a photo: The protester in Tiananmen Square stood in front of the tanks, unaware of a camera. Protesters often arrange their activities around the needs of the photographer (where's the light, is he close enough, etc.?). Some of those "Tea Party" and town hall protests were far more animated than they might have been because of the camera's presence.

"I have often shot children willing to do nearly anything I might ask of them. Given the facts you presented, there is no question the photo should have been published, but with this question of cause and effect, I think we need to await the full information before passing judgment."

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post. I haven't seen the cover of the Times this morning. But I couldn't help but chuckle. My ten year old AND my husband jumped off our deck railing on to the trampoline. And no, I didn't get a picture of it. The camera played no part in that daring choice whatsoever. Boys will be boys, camera or not.