« Where’s the weird? | Main | The blog that is sort of about Pat Tillman and how the Army mishandled that whole deal and also kind of about how Sports Illustrated doesn't get enough respect. If you like long winded titles, this blog is right in your wheelhouse! »

Shoot or don't shoot

Newspapers around the country that ran the picture of the four police officers carrying a shooting victim received both flack and praise for printing that particular photo. The editors of these newspapers were responsible for the way in which the picture ran. But what about the person who took the picture? Alan Kim was the one responsible for delivering the majority of the photograhs seen from the shootings, and he had many decisions to make on that horrifying day.

In an audio clip on Poynter.org, Kim was interviewed about his pictures. He basically said that there wasn't much time to think about whether to take pictures of what was happening or not. He just payed attention to what was happening and pressed the shutter button. He was saying that if something like this happens, you can worry later on about running a picture--that decision is usually left to the "higher ups."

I wonder how much a photographer, like Kim, worries about the ethical dillemas associated with pictures that come out of situations like the shootings at V. Tech.? Since it's possible with both film and digital photography to not develop or simply erase a picture, do photographers really consider ethics when taking horrifying pictures? Kim shot most of the images with a very large lens--he distanced himself from most of the action. Perhaps this was his way of being ethical--keep away from the people in uniform and everything will be OK. Is it fair for the people in the pictures to have been photographed from such a great distance? I think that some of the most compelling images come from photographers who are right up close in the action. I believe that this way, people know you're shooting them and it gives readers a since of what is really happening. Maybe if Kim would've been closer to the kid being carried across the field, it would've cleared up some of the confusion surrounding the picture.

Kim talks about taking pictures of somebody being arrested. The person being arrested was a photographer for the V. Tech student paper. Apparently, he had gotten a little too close to the action and the authorities didn't like it. I guess this further illustrates that sometimes we can't do what we're legally able to do. I would like to see what kind of shots the arrested student photographer got. I bet they're better than Alan Kim's.

Link to the audio and story...


I think that if the photographer is at enough distance and not in the way it is ok. It is sort of an ethical choice for the photographer themselves. When it comes to printing or submitting the photos it is the decision of the publication. It is also an ethical issue as well then. The only thing I dont agree with when it comes to photography in these types of situations is anyone with a camera at the right place at the right time can become a journalist and profit and that is just an issue to me that really needs to be dealt with in todays day and age.

Luke I think that you brought up a good point. I guess I hadn't really thought a whole lot about it. I guess I agree with the point that it is up to people higher up to decide what is printed, but at the same time I am having trouble with someone taking those pictures. I guess it is in the heat of the moment, it is your job, and if you are true photographer you are probably just doing it through instinct. I guess that is just one of those really gray areas that will never have a straight answer.

I think it is hard to find the line about ethics and news. Yes, pictures from the scene of something as horrific as the V. Tech shootings are tempting to view and take, but is it ethical? I don't know. If I was on the scene, I probably would have taken pictures, as just a reflex. Don't you think you would just continue to take them without thinking? I think I would and it is human nature to want to share this. But ethically, it's a tough line to draw. It could drive the point home but it could also damage someone else. I don't know, it's too hard to tell. Very good blog.