Feel My Pain: an exploration of the ethics of photojournalism

Research Description

This case study is particularly interesting, since many of the issues associated with the research are the very issues that the research is concerned with investigating.  The research grew out of the researcher’s work as a photographic journalist, and is concerned with the ethical implications of photojournalism and photographic representation generally.  The researcher is particularly interested in the area of overlap between issues of the ethics of representation and aesthetic choices.  There is often a disparity between research ethics and those of journalism, and of art.  Each approach carries its own set of perspectives on which ethical and moral judgements are based.  Much artistic work is done on the boundaries of these moral judgements, and the dilemma for both artist and researcher is to ensure that the work is ethical without imposing onerous restrictions that may prevent interesting work being done.  The aim of this research is to find out where those boundaries are, and to explore them.

Research focuses on the formal strategies that photographers use to frame, compose and structure both their images and their bodies of work, and examines the ethical aspects of this.  Because of the nature of his own work, the researcher is particularly interested in the portrayal of suffering, and whether it is acceptable to aestheticise in photography.

Research involves case studies, interviews with existing practitioners, and the practical exploration of strategies for dealing with the portrayal of individual suffering.  One of the ways in which documentary photography deals with tragedy is to use the image of one individual as a symbol for a group of people, for example, a grieving relative at a disaster.  In the process the individual’s identity becomes subverted by the iconic nature of the image.  The researcher has attempted to address this in a specific tragic situation by presenting such images, in this case of a group of women, en masse in a grid.  The women were taking part in a mass funeral for the victims of a massacre that occurred several years ago.

Ethical Issues >>

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