Exercise: Houghton and Kaplan

Read the articles ‘Walk the Line’ by Max Houghton (Foto8, issue 23, pp.143–4) and ‘Imaging

War’ by Jonathan Kaplan (Foto8, issue 23, pp.142–3).

Core resources: Foto8#23_Kaplan&Houghton.pdf

The full issue of the magazine is available to download from:


Write down your reactions to the authors’ arguments.

Having spent time reading through books on conflict photography by Don McCullin and João Silva and Greg Marinovich, describing the scenes they were photographing, combined with the images presented to support their autobiographies, I can see two differing sides. There is the need to respect the audience, while we may want to share the worst of the images to highlight the extent of the violence that is taking place, it has to be appropriate to the place and what it’s accompanying. I agree that a full frontal bloody image while eye catching, is also gruesome enough to put off the reader and paying one at that, from engaging any further with that publication. The public may say it wants free press and to see what’s happening, yet in reality we could argue that as casual bystanders we are no equipped to deal with this. We are doctors or surgeons like Kaplan or soldiers who have to make the life of death choices against the enemy, both of which are more exposed to this reality than most of us. Publishers and editors walk a fine line with what they can access and what they choose to publish and their moral code to avoid complaint.

Exercise 4. Read the booklet ‘Imagining Famine’ Do some research across printed and online media and find examples that either illustrate or challenge the issues highlighted in the documents.

Imaging Famine is a research project that examines how famine has been historically pictured in the media, from the nineteenth century to the present day.

The project began as a photographic exhibition at the Guardian and Observer Newsroom and Archive in London in August/September 2005 to mark the twentieth anniversary of ‘Band Aid’ and ‘Live Aid’ as well as the ‘Live 8′ event of that summer. It was summarised in a 24 page catalogue, and accompanied by public lectures and a major conference.

The project deals with the persistence of a famine iconography regardless of time and place. It traces the emergence of those images historically – considering the relationship between anthropology and photography, and the way photography has been a technology of colonialism – to pose the question of photography’s political effects. http://www.david-campbell.org/photography/imaging-famine/


– Correct use of image in the media

– Need respect for the people within the images

– Images need to be natural and not ‘posed’

– Need the image to tell the truth

– Avoid sensationalism

– Moral code for photographers

The essay https://www.american.edu/cas/literature/cwp/upload/WaW-Winning-Essay.pdf by Lindsay Maizland poses one of the key debates a photographer will be party to, should I help the victim or should I photograph the moment? The obvious reference here is Kevin Carter’s image of the vulture behind a starving child.


As Carter gave differing explanations we cannot say what was truth or not in this situation, even when reading through ‘The Bang Bang Club’, does the image tell the truth? Was the girl in danger or was it clever composition and perspective, does the image tell the truth of the moment or does it tell the truth that the photographer or editor wants to put across. It needs to be remembered that the job of a journalist is firstly to record and capture the events for the world and this in turn can bring improvement to the situation through publicity. At which point do we as photographers intrude on the moment and change the outcome or are we destined to be observers only, burning images of horror into or minds for eternity.

Don McCullin photographed a starving albino child in Biafra, blurring the lines, he speaks in his autobiography of giving the child a sweet which he treasured, and refers to the empty corned beef tin he carries with him, a moment where both a moral code and respect were in place to capture this image.


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