NINA BERMAN is a
and an associate professor
at Columbia University
Graduate School of
Journalism. A member of NOOR, she has
produced photos and stills published by
TIME, Newsweek, Geo and The Sunday
Times Magazine. She has published two
books: Purple Hearts and Homeland.
VICTOR J. BLUE is a
photojournalist who has
in Mexico, Guatemala,
and Iraq. A former staff photographer at
The Record in Stockton, California, his
photos have appeared in The New York
Times, The New Yorker, TIME, Newsweek
and on The Discovery Channel.
DAVID GUTTENFELDER is
a contributor to National
Geographic. While working for
the Associated Press, he was
based in Nairobi, Abidjan, New
Delhi and Tokyo and, in 2011, helped open
the AP bureau in Pyongyang. His advertising
photography has won honors from the Cannes
Lion Festival, D&AD and the AICP show.
TOM HUNDLEY worked for
two decades as foreign
correspondent for the
Chicago Tribune before he
joined the non-profit Pulitzer
Center on Crisis Reporting, where he is
now senior editor.
ED KASHI is a photographer
and filmmaker whose clients
include National Geographic,
Geo, Human Rights Watch,
TIME and the Robert Wood
Johnson Foundation. A member of VII Photo,
he is co-founder of Talking Eyes Media, a non-
profit that has produced films, exhibitions,
books and multimedia pieces on social issues.
SIM CHI YIN’s photos and
multimedia have been
published by TIME, The New
York Times Magazine, Le
Monde and The New Yorker,
and she has also shot for NGO clients. She
began her journalism career as a foreign
correspondent for The Strait Times in
Singapore, was a Magnum Foundation
Human Rights Fellow and is a member of
VII Photo, currently based in Beijing.
you are there to witness their struggle. They
know you can’t share it, and we shouldn’t act
like we do. It doesn’t make you a heartless
bastard, it makes you a professional. I try my
best not to intervene unless it’s a crisis, a life
or death situation. Sometimes you have to
pause in your role as a journalist and [be] a
human being. I’ve given [emergency] medical
treatment in the field. I don’t think it’s that
complicated… If there’s not someone [more
competent to do that], I drop my camera, do
what needs to be done, and then resume.
PDN: There is now a lot of mistrust and
suspicion of bias in the media. Is that an
argument for strict rules about not intervening,
or keeping a distance from a subject?
DAVID GUTTENFELDER: I guess I have
enough experience to know when something
is going to impact my independence or
undermine the credibility of the work, and
then I won’t do it….I’m trying to be honest
and trying to come to an honest conclusion
and trying to be transparent….Photography
is such an enormous responsibility and
such a magical thing, if you lie about it and
deceive people, it’s not only wrong, but it
undermines the power of everything that’s
been done by people who are doing it right.
PDN: Do you consider yourself a neutral
observer when you’re working on a story?
Is your goal “objectivity”?
ED KASHI: Objectivity is important as a way
to maintain an open mind and heart, listen
clearly and not believe some predetermined
narrative or opinion. Yet I find so many issues
in the world, and America included, where
there is an injustice and finding a way to
show it with clarity and honesty is a guiding
principle. Journalism can be a force for good,
and visual reporting and storytelling can make
a difference in people’s lives. The problem
with the term “objectivity” is when it means
you cannot be passionate about what you
observe and take a side, so your work can
have greater impact. If objectivity is to always
show both sides and be neutral, then that
feels like a neutered approach to reporting.
VICTOR J. BLUE: [I’m] always independent,
never neutral. I think [James] Nachtwey said
that. I try to be on the side of whoever is
getting shot at, whoever is getting run out of
town, whoever is getting screwed by forces
out of their control…I don’t work at the behest
of an entrenched interest, of a predetermined
outcome, or an unquestioned orthodoxy.
That can sound easy: “Yeah, of course I’m not
a propagandist for a government or a shill for a
corporation.” But it can be difficult, especially
to hold in check your own political biases and
leave those aside in your investigation of the
facts. I think sometimes photographers use the
medium of photojournalism as a tool to advance
their political beliefs. And I guess there is some
place for that kind of advocacy work—but it
belongs somewhere else, not in journalism.
I understand that photographers want to
“create change” with their pictures, but what
does that mean? That’s usually shorthand for
advancing left-leaning policy goals. Someone
with different politics could just as easily
use that justification. I don’t want to create
change. I just want people to be unable to
say they didn’t know. If you see my story and
you aren’t moved an inch—you vote the same,
spend your money the same, treat others in
your community the same—that’s fine. But you
can’t say you didn’t know.
Of course sometimes you have to cover
stories from the side of the aggressor, because
of access. In those circumstances, as always,
you are striving not to celebrate and not to
condemn, but to understand, and help readers
understand, the dynamic as you see it. And I am
definitely not a protagonist in the narratives I
create or the stories I tell. I think if you’re moving
things around or manipulating situations to make
more interesting pictures, you have crossed a line
into being an actor in that scenario.
DAVID GUTTENFELDER: I worked in North
Korea, and made 40 trips over more than
ten years. I worked with a minder. I wasn’t
censored, and didn’t censor myself. But…it was a
conversation day to day, and it evolved a lot over
the years. The arguments were often: “Why did
you show something that looks old or broken?”
I’d say, “That’s the reality of life here. People all
over the world struggle and are photographed
in that way. This is reality, and it allows for
understanding and creates connections.”
[About embeds] I would say you live with
people and you come to understand them and
you’re inevitably going to have some insight or
empathy, and that’s good. We are so ignorant.
I want a photographer to get intimate and
close enough with their subject, especially
someone we otherwise think of as the other or
an enemy. My feeling is that if a photographer
can go in with an ethical center, knowing
what their responsibility is, then we should
do it. The alternative is to close the door.
JULY 2017 pdnonline.com 25
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO BE
NEUTRAL AND “OBJECTIVE”?
WHAT DO PHOTOGRAPHERS
OWE TO THEIR AUDIENCES?
OUR PARTICIPANTS’ BIOS
WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS FOR
JOURNALISTIC INDEPENDENCE OF
MILITARY EMBEDS, GOVERNMENT
MINDERS, AND NGO PARTNERSHIPS?
Editor David Walker interviewed Victor J. Blue for his views on ethics in photojournalism.
To watch the video, go to our Facebook page or bit.ly/VictorBlueVideo. For more on how
photographers protect vulnerable subjects, see bit.ly/CoveringSensitiveSubjects.