Willoughby Wallace Hooper [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Introducing a year-long series of articles on truth, ethics and storytelling in photography

This is the first in a series of articles on truth, ethics and storytelling in photography. The series will look at how the world is photographed, how photography can make a difference, but also when it is opportunistic, generic and part of a publishing industry that does not always have the world's best interests at heart. Here's a snippet from it...


The example of Tyler Hicks’ image does serve a constructive purpose, though. It made me think about the thought that had gone into the picture (the making, the publishing, the captioning, the intent). I thought about the history of images of famine, how the starving are portrayed, whether their voices are ever heard, whether pictures of suffering really do ever have an effect, or if they just serve as a salve for wealthy voyeuristic consciences.


These theoretical considerations are not new. Go back to the 19th century and the idea of the photographer as witness and the use of images to shock were already central to how images were understood. In the 19th century, there are court cases where consent and the staging of images are already being considered, there are colonial-era images from the British-made Madras famine in India where the photographer, William Willoughby Hooper, is questioned for his callous attitude to the dying people he photographed as well as for his aestheticisation of suffering.

Read the whole story here.