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Photojournalists Dirty Secret

Photo Friday - Self Portrait

That quiet man or woman behind the camera harbors a rather dirty secret……at one time or another they have purposely taken less than flattering photos of politicians with whom they disagree politically.  Photojournalists, myself included, instinctively understand the visual nature of human beings.  A good picture can capture a moment, effectively freezing the narrative and invoking an emotional response with the viewer. A photographer can create whatever impression they want with selective editing of their photos.

Pulitzer prize winning photographer Eddie Adams  once wrote about  the power of photography –   “Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them; but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths.” 

In a recent article on Buzzfeed, Amy Odell examines the difference in the quantity and quality of photographs taken of Ann Romney on the campaign trail as compared to FLOTUS.  The article highlighted the ugly truth that photojournalists will purposely photograph politicians with whom they disagree with politically in unflattering angles or apply hideous crops during post processing of the photos. These photos are then submitted for sale to photo stock sites such as Getty and then published in newspapers and periodicals.  A ton of ink and pixels have been generated on the topic of bias in the main stream media, particularly with the arena  of modern day politics. The same can be said of photojournalism. In this case, photos, not words are used to shape an opinion.

The article focused on Getty Image editorial collections but Getty is not the only stock photography site on the block. AP Images from 7/1/2012 to 10/28/2012 reveal similar findings in photo quality of both women. FLOTUS had a total of 563 photos to Ann Romney’s 262 photos for the same time period.  P.P.E. Agency had no photos of Ann Romney and 105 photos of FLOTUS with a focus on her European trips and her derriere.   Reuters compiled slide shows of both FLOTUS and Ann Romney. FLOTUS garnered 40 photos in the slide show and Ann Romney with 28 photos. The differences in the slide shows reveal a startling level of  editorial control in an attempt to shape the public visual impressions of both women. I am serious. Go check out the slide shows and pay particular attention to the photo of both women addressing their respective national convention this summer. To make it easier – go to photo 12 on the FLOTUS slide show and photo 3 on Ann Romney’s slide show.  Remember these are the stock photography sites your local newspaper typically go to for images of national events and the photojournalists who work for these companies know this.

Part of my passion for photojournalism is to do my part to fill in the ‘half-truths’ with my own independent brand of photojournalism. I’ve covered political rallies since 2005 always pushing the technological envelope and being frustrated quite often :)  Today, the technology to instantly share photos instantaneously has revolutionized photojournalism. It is no longer a walled garden of select photographers crafting and editing their photos to shape public impressions.  Everyone with a cell phone or a point and shoot digital camera can be a citizen photojournalist – together we can fill in the ‘half-truths’ of photography.

Oh P.S.: FLOTUS = First Lady of the United States.

What are your thoughts on photojournalism? Share them in the comments section.

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7 responses to “Photojournalists Dirty Secret

  1. Kevin

    Greenberg is despicable. Even the photo The Atlantic chose was goofy. I blame them for their selection. If there were less demand for misleading photos, they’d diminish.

    The decentralization of photojournalism is wonderful, but the MSM still dictates perceptions to a large degree. Have any of your photos been picked up?

    • says:

      All my photos posted to Flickr are made available to Getty Images. I do post photos for sale on Picha Global.

      Keyboard fact checkers are quick to agree or dismantle MSM political reports. Startup online news media outlets have exposed collusion between journalists in their attacks against their political foes, even proving collusion between WH officials and news journalists.

      However, no one really shines a light on the quiet bias that goes on among photojournalists. Every once an awhile an ‘Adnan Hajj’ is exposed and summarily let go, ending the scrutiny. Camera technology and the rise of user generated content within a social media ecosystem has democratized photojournalism in ways I only could dream of as recently as 2007. Large photo outlets like Getty, along with the MSM certainly do have a tight hold on public perceptions; by bypassing traditional photo outlets, citizen photojournalists are beginning to blunt that influence.

      The main reason I started covering political events is to help the public have a better understanding by using my photography to fill in the missing ‘half-truth’. This is a really, really good thing – having more avenues for people to access information makes for a smarter, more informed society. A win/win for everyone, regardless of your political persuasion.

  2. says:

    Luckily the new media can add some balance. Keep up the good work, Tania!

  3. NeoCon

    I have taken photos for local publications at events where I was on the “other side”. But I never posted photos that were less than flattering of the D’s. It would be beneath me to editorialize that way. I even made Congresswomen Schwartz and Wasserman Schultz look better!

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