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Paper Topic:

Ethics of War Photography

The Ethics of War Photography

Submitted by Katrin Nilles

Course Arts and Events Management BA 3

Tutor Steven Beach

The Arts Institute at Bournemouth

31 December 2006

Abstract

The arts have not been the object of ethical debate , at least when compared with other fields in science or economics . War photography however , is another story . James Nachtwey and other noted photographers are responsible for some of the most compelling photos of war , and these images conjure up a feeling of guilt in many people viewing them Nevertheless , war

photos are considered a necessary part of journalism and documentary . Nachtwey and his peers ' continued use of these images suggests an internal code of ethics concerning photographs of people suffering and grieving that is apart from any other field . This dissertation attempts to decipher such a code and explain the motives behind capturing such images

Table of Contents

List of Figures .1

Introduction . 2

Objectivity .4

James Nachtwey . 7

Ethics of War Photography . 10

Is There an Ethical Formula .21

Conclusion .22

List of Figures

Figure 1 : Rwanda , 1994

Figure 2 : Afghanistan , 1996

Figure 3 : Inchon , Korea , 1950

Figure 4 : El Salvador , 1984

Figure 5 : Death at Dong Lach , near Ben Hoa (Vietnam , 1969

The Ethics of War Photography

1 Introduction

This dissertation deals with the ethical underpinnings of war photographs taken by various photographers , most notably James Nachtwey These images can be gruesome , violent and tragic all qualities that tend to suggest that photography in such circumstances is truly unethical . But what exactly is the ethical code when it comes to war photography and documentation , and is there a formal code to follow Photography can be a tricky field to contrast and compare to any others since it has connections with several other professions and yet can lack definition as an individual discipline . Photography has several purposes in itself visual art , journalistic evidence , espionage and simple documentary . As with the social sciences , art does not have any written rules regarding ethical practise it is left up to the judgement of the artist or photographer to decide what is proper subject matter . In the matter of war , however , circumstances are much different than usual and like all matters of large scale violent conflict , what is usually taboo becomes accepted practise . With journalism , however , photographers feel the need to conform to the ethical responsibilities of their counterparts in the press

In a normal , peaceful setting , people have countless ethical responsibilities to consider in their daily lives . Generally speaking people are expected to treat each other civilly and refrain at all costs from violence and certainly from avoidable death due to injury and hatred . With this attitude comes the expectation that photographers will focus on subject matter accordingly . In war , these simple expectations are turned on their head as social norms change drastically , and artists as well as researchers and news reporters feel the need to focus on these aspects of life and portray an uncomfortable truth to people both involved and uninvolved in...

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