Photographic Approaches: Artistic Vs Unethical

I had been suggested to research photographers like, Henry Peach Robinson and Adana Hajj. This is the first time I have heard these names. Thanks to the Internet, I have been able to read up a lot of information about both the photographer’s work. Obviously the research has led me to the comparison between both the photographers. I have decided to take their most famous / controversial photographs and express my thoughts. These findings are going to be very relevant and helpful in the part 4 of the DPP course.

Henry Peach Robinson:

Henry Peach Robinson was born on 9th July 1830 in Ludlow, Shropshire – died in 1901. He was an English pictorialist photographer, best known for his pioneering ‘combination printing’ method (joining multiple negatives to form a single image). Pictorialist photographers used methods like soft focus, special filters, lens coatings, heavy manipulation in the darkroom, and exotic printing processes to remove the mundane from the photographs. At times, such processes created unnerving and a dreamlike feeling in the photographs. According to him “imagination is vital however, it must be based on the observation”. He always promoted photography to be considered as an art form. His photograph “Fading Away” is an all time stunner. However, I could not establish the true story behind this photograph. As different sites quote different information about the people photographed. It would have been interesting, if I could have managed to find out the technique H.P. Robinson used to create this photograph.

Image courtesy Wikipedia (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/20/Fading_Away.jpg)

There are quite a few articles that provide in depth information of the artist, visit the links provided below for detailed reading.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Peach_Robinson#Works (Accessed on 20nd March 2012)

http://ezinearticles.com/?His-Most-Famous-Photograph-(Fading-Away)—Henry-Peach-Robinson&id=2785850 (Accessed on 22nd March 2012)

http://revisualculture.blogspot.com/2011/05/henry-peach-robinsons-fading-away.html (Accessed on 22nd March 2012)

I found the topic of pictorialism very intriguing. Wikipedia has a lot of information on this topic too  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pictorialism (accessed on 21nd March 2012). Scroll down to the 3rd point “Defining pictorialism”.

Adnan Hajj:

Adnan Hajj is a Lebanese freelance photographer, based in Middle East. He worked for Reuters, a London based news agency for more than 10 years. He was involved in few controversies, which subsequently cost him his job and probably credibility. Adnan’s photograph, capturing the aftermath of an IDF attack on Beirut was the first instance coming to lime light and challenged his credibility. A blogger Charles Johnson wrote an article on 5th August 2006, accusing Adnan of using Cloning technique, to increase the smoke. Reuter had to remove the photograph and apologies for such a mistake.

Image courtesy Wikipedia (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/0/0f/Adnan_Hajj_Beirut_photo_comparison.jpg)

Another image of Adnan Hajj created even bigger stir. This image was capturing Israeli F-16 fighter jet firing during an air strike on Southern Lebanon. In this image blatantly one flame had been manipulated in to 3 flames.

Image courtesy Wikipedia (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/63/IAFplaneLebanon.jpg)

In both the above cases apparently, the photographer claimed that he was just trying to remove the dust marks.

Immediately after the second incidence Reuter cut off all ties with Adnan Hajj. As of May 11, 2008, Reuters has removed all of Hajj’s images from its site. On January 18, 2007 Reuters reported that an internal investigation into the Adnan Hajj photo manipulation had led to a top Reuters photo editor being fired. (Information courtesy Wikipedia.

For more visit the link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adnan_Hajj_photographs_controversy (accessed on 22nd March 2012)

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13165165/ns/world_news-mideast_n_africa/t/altered-images-prompt-photographers-firing/#.T2q__5i6-RI (accessed on 22nd March 2012)

My opinion:

Both the photographer used techniques to enhance the images. However, there is a huge difference in the way they approached the matter. To me what H. P. Robinson has achieved, is very inspiring and artistic. I feel this way because; he never claimed that he is depicting truth. He always admitted and promoted his medium of expressing photographs as an art. Though he presented the photographs based on his imagination, he never misled people by calling it documentary or truth. Hence, his work has been considered as a form of art, and I am sure there are many contemporary photographers who would look up to him for inspiration.

In contrast to Robinson’s artistic approach and honesty, what Adnan has done is unpardonable. He has not only violated the work ethics, but has also misled people by interfering with the truth. It is very important for a photographer to understand the ethical boundaries of type of work they are engaging into. Common people believe that the camera never lies. However, the truth coming out of the camera will be truthful, only if the photographer and the person editing the photograph are being honest. In documentary and photojournalism field, even staging or directing a photograph is also considered manipulation.

Today due to the advancement of technology at times the image manipulation goes unnoticed. This has made slightly savvy public doubt the truth presented by the photojournalist/media. I sincerely believe that there are more photographers in the industry with high ethical integrity. This number is also significantly higher than the photographers with misinformed knowledge or ethics.

Paul Martin Lester has written a detailed article on this subject of “Photojournalism An Ethical Approach”. http://commfaculty.fullerton.edu/lester/writings/chapter6.html (accessed on 21 March 2012). A must read.

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5 thoughts on “Photographic Approaches: Artistic Vs Unethical

    • Thanks for the comment. I am glad you liked the design of the blog. I am using wordpress’s Theme: Nishita. All the photos used on the blog, belong to me and I have the copyright for them. Visit my website http://www.lenstrail.com for more photos. I have little knowledge of html, I guess that helps me to modify few things. Hope this helps. Don’t hesitate to ask, if you need any further info.

    • Thanks Kavin, I am glad you liked the post, I also think this topic is very engaging and there is a lot more research that on can do in this field. Let me know, if you find out some more details.

  1. I’m really enjoying the design and layout of your website. It’s a very
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