Pictures are worth more than a thousand words or even a few.

There are so many things about this photograph that haunt us, make us wonder, and make us question. But that is the joy of photojournalism…and the act of capturing these moments in time. What is it about this photograph that make us question the photojournalist’s intentions?

1) Why did he not help?
2) Why take the picture instead of helping?
3) Why take the picture?
4) Does capturing the moment out-weigh human life?

Or, is it the words on the image of the New York Post front page that really haunts us the most? The words integrated into this instant online meme has the social space in complete conversation. If you take the words away…what would we think? Would it strike us as much? For all we would know, there is a subway and a man in the way.

The word “DOOMED” indicates fear and a final resolution that questions the person’s life is against time. Time to get out of the way of this subway.

Pictures have been brought into our living rooms, business, and now electronic devices providing context of life around us.

How about this image from photojournalist Kevin Carter and his 1993 trip to the Sudan.

“The photograph was sold to The New York Times where it appeared for the first time on March 26, 1993 as ‘metaphor for Africa’s despair’. Practically overnight hundreds of people contacted the newspaper to ask whether the child had survived, leading the newspaper to run an unusual special editor’s note saying the girl had enough strength to walk away from the vulture, but that her ultimate fate was unknown. Journalists in the Sudan were told not to touch the famine victims, because of the risk of transmitting disease, but Carter came under criticism for not helping the girl.”

How about this picture from Saigon in 1968?

“A fitting quote for Adams, because his 1968 photograph of an officer shooting a handcuffed prisoner in the head at point-blank range not only earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1969, but also went a long way toward souring Americans’ attitudes about the Vietnam War.”

Later, Eddie Adams admitted he regretted taken the photograph which earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1969.

His regret came from the context of the image and the lifelong impact it had on his life. But, we might now ask…could he have saved General Nguyen Ngoc Loan from being shot as he was standing there handcuffed?

For years, we photojournalists have debated these situations. If we were pulling up to a car wreck and noticed someone in the car that could be saved before the fire engulfed the scene…would we capture the moment with our camera or save the person?

Some say they saving the person’s life outweighs the ethics of the profession. Some say that capturing this moment in time for others to see far outweighs the short term impact of human life. Many people in this debate have used the phrase: “short term impact of human life.”

Some even say they would set their camera down to automatically capture images while they were attempting to save the person’s life. Best of both worlds solution?

So many of us have an opinion, but none us know the answer until we are put into those situations. To me…this is a similar debate to the whole controversy over the death penalty. We might stand for or against the death penalty, but we never know until it is time for us to be the one to pull the lever that sends the electric charge through another person’s body. How will we know we would react until we are put into that situation. Would we pull the lever?

Mr. Abbasi, the freelance photojournalist who took the subway image, admits he was caught in a situation with compromising time sensitive, split decisions to be made.

For me, the controversy lies in the use of text in the photograph. What made the editors feel the need to add words? Poynter Institutes Kenny Irby feels there were other photographs from the subway to use that were less disturbing. I think the discussion should be pointed more towards the usage of words in the photograph on the front page of the New York Post that bring emphasis to the tragedy.

I ask…was it really necessary to use words that may or may not represent the moment in time?

Regardless…there is a big story here and it has the attention of the masses. I guess they achieved their goal.

Here are references for this blog post:

Vulture Stalking a Child – Blog Post

13 Photographs That Changed the World

Poynter: NY Post photog: ‘Every time I close my eyes, I see the image of death’