The opening exercise in Context and Narrative explores objectivity in photography, particularly documentary and photojournalism. The exercise required me to select photographs from newspaper stories of emergencies, and discuss whether or not the photographs are objective. The Macmillan Dictionary defines objectivity as ‘the ability to make decisions based on fact rather on your own person feelings or beliefs’.
The first photograph I selected is from a news story which appeared on Breakingnews.ie on 1st March 2014. The story’s headline read, ‘Fireman jumps from bridge to save woman in dramatic river rescue’. The photograph is by freelance photographer, Sean Curtin. It’s a dramatic image featuring a firefighter frozen in mid air as he drops into the River Shannon from a bridge. I believe this is a good example of an objective news photograph. It’s obvious from the expanse of water at the bottom of the image that the photographer was some distance away from the action. The photograph suggests that composition took second place to the priority of recording the image content. More than likely, the photographer was working at the limit of his available focal length. The image also features a considerable amount of noise. Given the overcast weather conditions, this would indicate an easy decision to sacrifice image quality through a high ISO selection, in order to maintain a fast shutter speed to capture the action. This article also features amateur video footage to corroborate the legitimacy of the photograph.
The exercise brief states that the images we see in newspapers may be selected from a series of images, and how can we know the factors that determined the choice of the final images? With regard to the selection of the above image, if you follow the link to the photographer’s website, there is a series of images. However, it is clear from viewing the series that the image that appeared in the article was selected because it’s the most dramatic.
My second selection, features a news story from Gometro.ie on 5th August 2014, with the following headline, ‘120 missing in Bangladesh ferry capsize’. The photograph is by AP/AM Ahad, and features a large crowd gathered on the bank of the River Padma following the capsizing of the passenger ferry. The article begins by reporting the known figures about those presumed to have been on board the ferry and those still unaccounted for. The article continues by drawing attention to Bangladesh’s slack safety standards and appalling record of ferry disasters, “Overcrowding is a common feature of many of the accidents, and each time the government vows to toughen regulation”. The photograph reveals a crowd so dense, that many chose to stand in the river or clamber onto the rooftops for an improved view. I believe that the photograph is positioned within the article to validate references to overcrowding in Bangladesh society, and therefore is not objective.
Update December 2014: The Metro Herald Newspaper is no longer in business, they printed their last editions on 19th December 2014. The article I use for this exercise is no longer available online. It was from the online version, Gometro.ie. However, I did manage to source the same photograph from another website, which is now linked above.
Sean Curtin Photography (2014) Rescue Shannon Limerick 002a.JPG [image online], available: http://seancurtinphoto.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Firefighter-River-Rescue/G0000aAsByGluaYs/I0000pmOeFKcgHXg [accessed 11 November 2014].
Raleigh, D. (2014) ‘Fireman jumps from bridge to save woman in dramatic river rescue’, Breaking News.ie, available: 1 Mar, available: http://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/fireman-jumps-from-bridge-to-save-woman-in-dramatic-river-rescue-623963.html [accessed: 11 November 2014].
Go.Metro.ie (2014) Padma Ferry Disaster/A.M. Ahad [image online], available: http://gometro.ie/2014/08/120-missing-bangladesh-ferry/ [accessed: 11 November 2014].
IBN Live (2014) Padma Ferry Disaster/A.M. Ahad [image online], available: http://ibnlive.in.com/news/118-feared-dead-in-bangladesh-ferry-disaster/490373-2.html [accessed: 21 December 2014].