U3AC Photo Forum 14 – Morality and Controversy in Photography

Helen Cherry started of gently with the Cottingley Fairies and then took us on an emotional roller-coaster ride through the work of Robert Capa, Brian Walski, Mikhael Subotsky, Kevin Carter, Eddie Adams, Nick Ut, Alan Kurdi, Irina Ionesco, Diane Arbus, Joel-Peter Witkin, Andres Serrano and Jill Greenberg.  She asked questions posed by these pictures. Is it right/wrong to take them?  Should they be published?  What are the rights of the subjects? Do they result in change or are they merely to shock?  Do the ends justify the means?  Is it just a job or a public service?  What price is paid by the photographer?

There was much debate and a lot of issues were left hanging.  But there was some consensus on the following. 1. The context for the pictures is vital in understanding them.  2.  It is important to respect the subjects.  3. Turning pictures of exploitation and suffering onto art object on a gallery wall is wrong.  4. Photography reveals what’s happening and society can’t claim it doesn’t know.  5. Mixed feeling and responses to much of the work; solid condemnation of the work of Irina Ionesco.  As for the impact on the photographer: several of those in the above list committed suicide.

Photos: 1. Elsie Wright, Cottingley Fairies;  2. Joel-Peter Witkin, From Songs of Experience

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