Whenever we find ourselves in a troubling situation, as a witness, we intervene. We either get physically involved or call for rescue, but either way, we do not remain passive. Photographers – photojournalists in particular- do the same, but not the same way.
Lately, the actions of photojournalists witnessing troublesome situations have been, yet again, put into question. Instead of intervening in some manner or the other, photojournalists tend to continue to photograph, making some people upset. What they do not understand is that, unlike you and me, photojournalist intervention happened via their photography. They do not ignore the situation, dismiss it or walk away from it. They intervene very actively, by taking pictures. For them, it is their most powerful weapon. Not their fists, not their yells, not their posturing, but their camera and storytelling skills.
Sure, our laws, based on our cultural senses, tells us that the first priority is to bring assistance to a person in danger. To immediately try to alter the course of events. We do so by physically getting involved and/or call for help. While the physical approach is the most immediate, it can have dire consequences for everyone. Calling for help, whether using a phone or our lungs, is the most frequent option chosen by witnesses. And was it besides making others aware of the situation? Isn’t that what a photojournalist does? Screams for help with his images? Thus can we really say that the photographer seemingly inaction is not an act of social cowardice but when rather, it is the most unselfish action taken.
By choosing not to intervene and rather reporting, calling/screaming for social awareness over what they witness, photojournalist might actually be doing a better job at intervening than the rest of us. They can actually prevent the same situation happening again, not only to those who he has witnessed but to others all over the world.
There is no cruelty in the photographers eye when he photographs scenes of incredible cruelty and inhumanity. In fact, there is compassion and a heightened sense of social responsibility. It is via their images that the situation can be resolved not once, but forever.
Their role is not of a superhero seeking to rescue every single victim. These are for the all-volunteer policemen, firefighters, military. The photojournalist is a reporter who’s role is to prevent our society from creating more victims, one photograph at a time.
Photo by luisdesistemas