www.dpreview.com
www.dpreview.com

Ethics of prize-winning photo debated

Feb 25, 2013 at 20:22 GMT

What happens when a Magnum photographer creates a documentary image that does not depict the reality indicated by the caption? What happens when that same image wins critical acclaim as part of a portfolio that garners the creator an international Photographer of the Year award? A controversy in the world of photojournalism is the result, with many accusing photographer Paolo Pellegrin of violating basic journalistic ethics, including plagiarizing the background description of his series from a decade-old piece written in the New York Times.

This image has garnered both critical acclaim and criticism for Magnum photographer Paolo Pellegrin.

The original caption of the image above as it appears on the POYI web site reads,'The Crescent, Rochester USA, 2012. A former US Marine corp sniper with his weapon. Rochester, NY USA 2012.'

The problem is that the subject, Shane Keller - photographed in his garage -  was never a Marine sniper, but a former photojournalism student and combat photographer. In addition, the Crescent neighborhood of Rochester, an urban area marked by high crime is not the one in which Mr. Keller was photographed.

In his defense, Mr. Pellegrin has responded by telling the New York Times lens blog that the incident is a result of a genuine misunderstanding and inadvertent posting of research information that was never meant to be made public. Whichever side of the debate you fall on, this begs the larger question of whether the award-winning image garnered critical acclaim because of its content or its context. Can you even separate the two? Use the comments section to let us know what you think.