Drawing (or blurring) the line — apps and journalism

Last month the New York Times ran this very inter­est­ing item on a pho­tog­ra­ph­er who won a prize in the pres­ti­gious Pic­tures of the Year Inter­na­tion­al com­pe­ti­tion using an iPhone and the Hip­sta­mat­ic app.

At the cen­tre of the con­tro­ver­sy was the legit­i­ma­cy of the image and the dis­cus­sion of the place for these apps in pho­to jour­nal­ism.

The pho­tog­ra­phers rebut­tal state­ment is a great read on its own — here’s one excerpt that brings home the issue as I see it:

At the heart of all of these pho­tos is a moment or a detail or an expres­sion that tells the sto­ry of these sol­diers’ day-to-day lives while on a com­bat mis­sion. Noth­ing can change that. No con­tent has been added, tak­en away, obscured or altered. These are remark­ably straight­for­ward and sim­ple images.

What has got­ten peo­ple so worked up, I believe, falls under the head­ing of aes­thet­ics. Some con­sid­er the use of the phone cam­era as a gim­mick or as a way to aes­theti­cize news pho­tos. Those are fair argu­ments, but they have noth­ing to do with the con­tent of the pho­tos.

We are being naïve if we think aes­thet­ics do not play an impor­tant role in the way pho­to­jour­nal­ists tell a sto­ry. We are not walk­ing pho­to­copiers. We are sto­ry­tellers. We observe, we chose moments, we frame lit­tle slices of our world with our viewfind­ers, we even decide how much or how lit­tle light will illu­mi­nate our sub­jects, and — yes — we choose what equip­ment to use. Through all of these deci­sions, we shape the way a sto­ry is told.

Do check out the full arti­cle. I’m in the ‘any­thing is a tool’ camp — any tool is valid, but the artis­tic and jour­nal­is­tic inte­gre­ty are para­mount in the cre­ation of the final image.

As long as the fun­da­men­tal truths depict­ed in the final image are those that were present at the time the ini­tial image was cap­tured are rep­re­sent­ed, it’s all fair game.