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Week 5: Power and Responsibilities

This week was about the power and responsibility we have as photographers and about an ethicality in our practice. Our first task was to read and objectively respond to an article about Jeff Mitchell’s photograph of refugees crossing from Croatia to Slovenia in October 2015. This photograph was used by UKIP in 2016 during their campaign to support their idea of leaving the EU.

In the article Mitchell says that he was disappointed by the way of how his photograph has been used. But admits that he has no chance to control what happens to his photographs after they have been uploaded online: ..what happens after that, how our images are used, can be out of our control.. ..It’s just unfortunate how it’s been picked up. It’s difficult for any agency – Getty, Reuters, AP – that circulates photographers’ images. They’re out there. The purpose of this exercise was to assess ethical judgments in relation to the taking of, and publication / use of images, not to discuss the topics depicted in the image or whatever the consequences of its publication may or may not have been. The article can be found here: These were my thoughts of the topic above:

These are thoughts of my peers: As a journalistic photographer there has to be an acceptance that you do not have control as to how your images will be perceived, however varied perception is very different to having the image used within a political campaign with a specific agenda of propaganda.. ..Ethically, the decision lies with the photographer as to whether he should lift the lens and take the shot at that second – especially if it includes people in the depths of distress.. - ..Mitchell’s image remains fairly unique in its depiction of the conditions and volume of people marching. That and the setting of green fields (not unlike those of rural Britain) must have been too tempting for UKIP not to exploit for their marketing.. - ..The picture was later portrayed as if thousands of male muslins were going to arrive and disrupt the way or life, order in their city to play with the sense of fear, racism and xenophobia. As the picture was used commercially, the photographer has no control as per to who the picture can be sold, and how the picture would be used.. ..The positive part among the many negative of social media, was that the target audiences recognized marketing used before as propaganda, and the image was then restored to its initial purpose and not having the desired impact as originally intended by UKIP.. - ..however the image was used to create some form of hysteria amongst the many.. It is also very interesting to see how much this photograph resembles the antisemitic Nazi propaganda from the Second World War. I am wondering whether Mitchell the photographer or Farage the leader of UKIP were aware of the resemblance when taking / using the photograph.

The second task was focused on our practice and responsibilities that are addressing: considerations we take into account in respect of our subject matter or specialism, decisions (technical, creative etc.) we make within your practice, and who might be affected if we fail to consider the implications of our photography. This was my response:

My peers are interested in different photographic styles and genres so some of our responsibilities are similar and some differ. A documentary photographer commented: ..I have a duty to the audience to ensure my work is carried out with integrity and that my representation of the subject matter, whether in words or pictures, is faithful and accurate.. One of me peers who documents new born babies said: ..I need to be incredibly understanding and sympathetic. My subject matter is the baby however the images are for the parents to keep as a memory. I need to be mindful that babies' skin may have deteriorated and lips are often turning black, parents may not have seen this and won't want to.. Other peer of mine who also photographs nude said: ..To me its art and looking at the way the human body aligns with nature in harmony. Completely not sexual. but as soon as you get a pair of boobs out, it's suddenly provocative. If I fail to abide by these social obligations my work can have major implications on both me and my model.. And what have I learned? This week we got acquainted with a term ‚moral triangle‘. It expresses the relationship between the audience, subject and author (I found it similar to The Rhetorical Triangle established by Aristotle). The audience can be one person or a group of people from different countries and backgrounds. Hence why everybody will perceive the photograph with the portrayed subject differently. The subject (human, building, topic or an idea, etc) is what/who the photographer expresses his idea through. The author is responsible for what subject he chooses and for the way how he portrays it. He can partly affect how the photograph is perceived by an audience by targeting people interested in such photograph. The most important thing for all the corners of the triangle is context. ..Because context plays such an integral role in suggesting the ideological meanings of an image, how and where an image is used is arguably the most important consideration in terms of the balance of power between the subject and photographer.. ..context can help explain the "why" and "how" by introducing the setting in which it was created.. Ref: Falmouth week 5 presentation, Wikipedia Rhetorical Tetrahedron

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