January 1, 2011

Things I Don't Write

This morning on the way to a fast-food breakfast I saw an apparently homeless man lying by the side of the road, passed out next to the plastic bag that held his extra-large beer can. I could have snapped his picture and then used it to illustrate a blog post about the problems of homelessness, alcoholism, or just the good fortune that last night's temperature in the Valley did not drop below freezing. But I just couldn't bring myself to take that picture. There are plenty of people who become prize-winning photo-journalists based on their willingness to exploit report on other people's misery. My distaste for doing that is doubtless one of the factors that doom me to blog obscurity. Oh well.



  1. Oh, these are volumes written on this ethics scenario. Locally, "The Picture" for us and the Riverside (CA) Press-Enterprise newspaper was the front-page, full color photo of two dead Riverside sheriff deputies on the ground, fallen during a "routine warrant serving."

    The napalmed girl in Viet Nam ... the Kent State massacre ... the woman jumping from her apartment complex holding her infant to escape flames ... the Zapruder film. Any of these - and many others - can initiate hours-long debates on whether to publish or not.

    If you were on assignment to document homelessness in The Valley, you might have shot this photograph. But as a caring, sensitive citizen, you chose not to. -Clint Bradford

  2. Clint, it's often hard to know where to draw the line. I think photos like the Vietnamese girl and Kent state were needed to help the public understand important events in the world and in our lives. But some pictures are just sensationalism, and others serve only the photographer's ego. Ego or not, some reporters seem to lose the ability to understand what the priorities of a human being should be. Here in California, we've had to enact an anti-paparazzi law that forbids photographing people from moving cars. These guys have repeatedly engaged in dangerous traffic maneuvers that endanger, not only themselves and the celebrities they stalk, but also the general public. It's terrifying if you happen to be on the street when they are pursuing someone. And there is the disgusting case of Kevin Carter who won a Pulitzer Prize for his photo of a starving child whom he could have saved but didn't.


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