Honors: Interview with Ben Garvin about the ethics around photojournalism

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The murder of two high school students in Little Falls, Minn. on Thanksgiving gained a lot of attention from the press. Ben Garvin from the Pioneer Press was one of the photojournalists that covered the aftermath of the event. Many photographs that are taken after a death include family members in grief. For this interview, I asked Garvin about the ethics surrounding photographing people in grief who may not want their privacy invaded and do not want their photo taken.

"There's a fine line between taking advantage of people's vulnerabilities and telling their story," Garvin said about photographing family members of the deceased. He said that people are often skeptical of the media and that many people have been upset with him in the past. Once people see that you are just interested in telling their story and not taking advantage of them, they are usually okay, Garvin said.

Garvin said that he never wants to take a photo of somebody who does not want him to and that shooting across the parking lot with a long lens camera is never a good situation. He said that the one exception to this rule is when the person is an important person who has been convicted and has been a high-profiled criminal. He said the "ethics get slippery" in that situation and that he does try to get a photo if the criminal has a long history and has been trying to avoid the camera.

"If you have any gut feelings that this may not be a good idea, then you're right," Garvin said. While he said that you should trust your heart in deciding what is good and bad, he also said that there is never a solid line.

He said that the most difficult part about photographing people in vulnerable people is that he feels like he is a part of a "swarm of bees." He said that if it is a situation where many photographers and media are there, it makes it harder to be sensitive.

"You don't have a special right to be an asshole just because you have a camera," Garvin said.

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This page contains a single entry by takik001 published on December 2, 2012 6:48 PM.

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