December 31, 2005

How far would you go to get the shot?

I’ve often heard photographers discuss the ethics of altering a photo–debating, say, whether it’s acceptable to use Photoshop to remove a Coke can from a landscape shot. Had they noticed the can before taking the shot, of course, they’d have kicked it out of the frame. These heated discussions of the “purity” of the captured image strike me as a little sterile, especially when great pre-digital masters altered images freely.
So here’s a potentially meatier topic: Would you set up a great shot at the expense of personal injury to others? And to what end?
Photographer Liu Tao has been accused of lying in wait to capture shots of a man wiping out when his bike hit a submerged pothole. He defends himself by noting that his images embarrassed the government into fixing the pothole, and that without the change people would still be getting hurt. Photography can effect social change, but where’s the line between documentarian and participant, and how does one know when to cross it? [Via]

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