New Claims of Fauxtography

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Aug 12, 2006 7:20 PM

Were the Lebanese posing bodies and even digging up those already buried for photographers?

Things are not looking up for photojournalism.

From freelancer photographer Bryan Denton in Lebanon, on a photojournalism discussion site:

i have been working in lebanon since all this started, and seeing the behavior of many of the lebanese wire service photographers has been a bit unsettling. while hajj has garnered a lot of attention for his doctoring of images digitally, whether guilty or not, i have been witness to the daily practice of directed shots, one case where a group of wire photogs were coreographing the unearthing of bodies, directing emergency workers here and there, asking them to position bodies just so, even remove bodies that have already been put in graves so that they can photograph them in peoples arms. these photographers have come away with powerful shots, that required no manipulation digitally, but instead, manipulation on a human level, and this itself is a bigger ethical problem.

whatever the case is—lack of training, a personal drive as a photographer to show what is happening to your country in as powerful a way as possible, or all out competitiveness, i think that the onus is on the wire services themselves, because they act as the employer/filter of their photogs work. standards should be in place or else the rest of us end up paying the price. and i’m not against the idea of local wire photographers, but after seeing it over and over for the past month, i think it is something that is worth addressing. while i walk away from a situation like that, one wire shooter sets up a situation, and the rest of them follow…....

by Bryan Denton Fri Aug 11 07:36:08 UTC 2006 | Beirut, Lebanon

And, he shows up twice, later in the tread on photo staging, after his accusations are questioned by fellow photographers:

hi all,

sorry to have not been specific. just to make this clear. i was not in qana and am not referring to the massacre that took place there. i have been covering beirut, and it was at numerous protest, evacuations as well as the israeli strikes in chiyeh, which unfortunately did not get that much coverage in the media—where i saw this behavior occur. i have also heard from friends of mine in lebanon, respected photographers, that this was not an isolated incident.

unfortunately in each of these cases, it was the lebanese wire photographers that started these situations. that said, i am not trying to make generalizations. i know that there are a number of dedicated and brilliant lebanese photographers here who are putting themselves in extremely dangerous situations in order to document what is happening here in their country, and in hindsight, i realize it was irresponsible for me to post the previous statement because it was not specific enough. however, this has been something i’ve noticed happening here, more than any other place i’ve worked previously.

i agree that there is a lot of pressure, particularly on stringers (i myself am a freelancer), due to cost cutting and how the big image banks pay their non-staff photographers, and while unfortunate events like qana and chiyeh require the utmost responsiblity, seeing it happen for things like protests and evacuations is equally as disturbing and doesn’t bode well.

again, i am terribly sorry for rattling the saber so hard….re-reading my words I too should have been a bit more responsible.

And, here:
 
also, regarding bob’s clarification of choreography, i am aware that people will often times show you what they feel you should document. this is a reality that we become a part of. however, what i am talking about, specifically at the site of the bombing in chiyeh the day after, is the repeated attempt, with a few successes at directing the team of relief workers who were unearthing bodies from the rubble. i also have second hand from ghaziye yesterday, that’s outside saida, that the funeral there was heavily influenced by the photographers direction, to the point where the photographer i’ve been working with, walked away and left all together.

Denton is not backing off his accusations, and it seems the photographers on the discussion thread know and respect him. His profile indicates he's been published in the NYT (though Allah notes we don't yet have definite confirmation that the poster is Denton).

There's some blog-hatin' going on in the discussion, but if photojournalists want the public to believe the news they produce, they should stop blaming blogs for uncovering deception and start working with them to root it out and get rid of it for good.