Friday, 19 September 2008

Question of ethics

Crossing over the Millenium bridge, Gateshead, UK

Jill Greenberg's 'portraits' of presidential candidate John McCain have created quite a storm on the photography blogs. Some commentators write about the freedom to express yourself as an artist but for the most part many think it's just incredibly unprofessional. So do I.

Jill Greenberg's
attitude seems to attack the bond of trust placed in photographers. It is a trust thing. A photographer is hired to do a job, and therefore physically represents the company or person they are working for. If you are working for someone and you behave badly, it reflects on them as much as you. In Greenberg's case, she represented Atlantic magazine who had commissioned her to shoot a cover image for the magazine. She did get that cover image shot but obviously had a completely separate agenda of her own. A strange attitude considering the number of magazine cover assignments she has shot - you'd think she'd know better!

I was once asked whether I'd work on a commission where i didn't like the person or subject. I replied that in business you have to make a choice but that financial implications usually have the final say. You have to be mercenary in your approach and, yes, maybe some of your own ideals have to be re-examined or put to one side. I'm no fan of politicians but if i was offered a commission to photograph one of the main political parties.... I'd do it probably.

Whenever someone asks me about starting in professional photography, i always tell them to imagine what their ideal customer would be like. Maybe a second question should be asked too - what client WOULDN'T you accept a commission from on the grounds of ethics, dislike, etc? An oil company maybe? A weapons manufacturer? A political party?

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