The Ethics and Aesthetics of Photojournalism

By Marina Smolens


  • “Before there was language, there were drawings on cave walls. Then came the written word, and eventually, we arrived at photography”
    • Explanation of how the world has evolved to lead us to having photographs
  • Uses a lot of resources to further explain their thesis
    • NPRA, code of ethics 
  • “They warn photographers against being “harshly intrusive,” but the fact remains that exploitation is sometimes intrinsic to “good” photojournalism because the primary goal is to share important truths that the photographer feels the public should know about.” 
  • “They are photographs of real people in real situations, and photographers are just doing their job when they pick up their camera and capture that moment.”
    • Reason for doing their job
  • Susan Sontag
    • Victims want representation of own sufferings, although want suffering to be seen as unique 
  • “While edited images can skew the reality of the situation, they allow the photographer to focus on specific elements of a picture that may lead to a deeper truth that would have been missed out on had the image remained untouched”


  • Explaining how Salgado uses photographs of migrant and refugees and showing their ribs so you can see how skinny and weak they are
    • “starvation clearly from the ribs and shoulder blades”
  • Shows an African woman and her children walking in the desert during a drought and war-stricken time period. 
  • Pellegrin encourages documentation of historical and political events in order for the viewer to connect on a different level with his images; images usually contain a story that is unfinished/ untold
  • Tim O’Brien discussion about war and how grotesque but beautiful war can be 
  • Images meant for the viewer to make a personal connection with them
  • “They deliver to us beautiful, haunting, informative, truthful, horrific, meaningful, profound images, and so what we do when we view them is just as important”
  • Pellegrin wants to “produce an experience” in his work
    • Images explain human conditions that can be harsh, but also are meant to support hope and courage in one’s life 
      • Meant for the viewer to feel a sense of compassion
      • To be touched by these photographers


  • Mentions certain photographers and the purpose for their work; shows authority with authors many resources 
    • Sebastião Salgado explanation for his photographs
    •  Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times
  • “As long as we remain engaged observers who are willing to consider, reflect, and learn, then the ethics of a photograph are upheld.”
    • Show of authority 
  • Kimmelman states 
    • “ images are starting to have less and less effect on people, and therefore, elements of beauty are essential to hold our attention.”


  • “but it is another thing to try to do so now, when the number of images that flash across television and computer screens diminishes the value of any single image you may see.” Therefore, since the number of media that we see every day has increased greatly over the years, photographers now struggle to make a picture has a lasting effect.”
    • Explaining media today and how it impacts us


  • “While photojournalism may be exploitative, this exploitation is not always unethical and sometimes even necessary in creating an image that is both beautiful and impactful. This allows for photographs to reveal truths about human activity and humanity as a whole, as well as encourage compassion and reflection within viewers.”
    • Explains that photojournalism is needed in order to emphasize on human activity that occurs today and a way for viewers to connect/ reflect about photographs/ events


  • Society 
    • Specifically people who view photographs; need to look closer and pay more attention to message trying to be revealed 


“There will be endless debate about the morality of photojournalism, but one thing is clear: no matter the manipulation, aestheticism, and exploitation, it is an image of real people and their realities, and viewers must always be mindful of that.” 

Clearly arguing to make a point about photojournalism, all using clear, straight facts to argue


  • Uses real life images that are very sad in order to hit our emotions about the impact photographs have on us
  • Very honest and confident in beliefs/ thoughts 


  • Thoughts well organized 
    • One paragraph be about unedited photojournalism; next on edited 
    • Splits up examples of photographers and certain photographs throughout essay, not only in one part 
      • Examples very effective 


  • Very formal 
  • Many comparisons 
    • This happens, BUT this can also result positively from it
  • Uses sad words when explaining a sad photograph
    • broken , grotesque, scary
  • When talking about photojournalism throughout
    • Hope, wisdom, communication, connection, truthful
      • All positive! 


  • Someone who believes photographs have a very large impact on our world and what we see 
  • Photographs are needed in this world for us to make constant connections with
  • Thoughtful and intelligent

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