If you want to be a photojournalist, ethical photography is something you need to master just as the artistic and technical parts of the craft. However, not all photographers stick with the rules of ethics. Instead, some of them stage their photos, direct their subjects, or even manipulate images in post. In this video, Michael The Maven shares some famous cases of photojournalists who were caught cheating. It’s an interesting video to watch, but also a useful reminder of what not to do if you want to be a good photojournalist.
Before sharing the stories, Michael points out some basic rules of photojournalism:
- Do not direct
- Do not heavily edit
- Do not mislead context
- Do not steal
An ethical photojournalist sticks with these rules, but there are quite a few cases when photographers ignored them. Some of them were caught faking their photos, and Michael shares these stories in the video. And they all faked photos in different ways, be it staging the shot, directing the subject, manipulating the image and so on.
One of the photojournalists Michael mentions is Edward Keating who photographed a kid shooting from a gun in 2002. His photo was published in the New York Times along with the story, but three other photographers came out and said that they witnessed Keating directing the kid. The photographer explained that he submitted the photo “more as a portrait,” not as a photojournalistic story. But still, it opened two separate investigations and he ended up leaving the newspaper.
Another example is J. Scott Applewhite, who covered President Bush’s landing on an aircraft carrier in 2003. Years later, it turned out that most parts of the image were staged. The crowd, the banner, the composition… None of it was spontaneous.
Some of Michael’s examples include very old photos, such as Yevgeny Khaldei’s iconic image from 1945. It’s supposed to depict the Soviet’s victory over Nazis, but it was both staged and manipulated. Michael also gives a recent example many of us are familiar with. Remember Marcio Cabral who won the 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition? It turned out that he photographed a stuffed anteater. Although it’s unethical and wrong, this one still gave me chuckles when I remember it.
I mentioned only some of the cases here, but make sure to watch Michael’s video to find out more. And also, make sure not to ever do these things if you want to be an ethical photojournalist.