Snap Judgments

Friday, November 28, 2008


What are the rules that govern journalistic portrait photography? Wide-angle lenses, nonstandard lighting, shooting from below – they’re all fair game and frequently employed by photogs working for major publications. But what obligation is there to the subject? Bob searches for answers.

***NOTE: Follow along with our slide show to view the photo portraits mentioned in this piece.***
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Comments [41]

John from Arizona

Reading these comments is like watching the special Olympics.

Dec. 15 2008 11:09 AM
Thomas Michael Alleman from Los Angeles

Most cover shoots with busy, powerful people are fifteen minutes long, maybe 30. I’m sure that Platon had no longer than that with Bill Clinton or Ann Coulter, nor Jill Greenburg with John McCain. The commercial photographer in that high-pressure scenario must necessarily conceive her shot long before they even arrive at the studio (or the office building in which they’ll construct a makeshift set); on-site, they must set up lights, backgrounds, chairs and props in a specific arrangement well before the subject walks in the room. Their preparation must produce world-class results within scant minutes, regardless of the mood or disposition of that person, and without any guarantee that the sitter will be “comfortable in their body” or “relaxed in front of the camera”, and not harried by assistants and blackberries and such. All along, the real possibility is that that subject will grow bored or disenchanted with the session, and will just walk away.

Against these bizarre odds, the successful magazine portraitist is the one who doesn’t depend on the subject for the grooviness of the picture. The photographer bring her own “magic” to the picture, immediately and without fail, with little regard for “the soul” of the subject and without any illusion about flattery or “truth-telling”. Because the stakes and the pressure are way too high to hope for the on-schedule appearance of those intangibles. In place of them, the road-tested photographer substitutes their own (visual) quirks of personality, their own (visual) “soul”; without those, the picture will remain a bland and rushed-through headshot of a middle-aged guy in a suit. In that artificial world, is it any wonder that “journalism” is hardly an issue?

Dec. 08 2008 11:55 AM
Thomas Michael Alleman from Los Angeles

In Brooke Gladstone’s opening monologue, she intoned the word “photojournalism” in the first sentence, then went on to name four examples of “photojournalism” that might be of dubious ethical merit. Her examples are themselves inaccurate and misleading: besides citing a 70-year-old allegation of wartime misfeasance that’s entirely irrelevant to the current discussion of modern magazines and their cover portraits, her other three examples actually have nothing to do with photojournalism as practiced by photographers. Rather, those cases all reflect the choices made by photo-editors working in the newsrooms of corporate-owned publications and agencies. When three of the four individuals quoted in the ensuing discussion are photographers, it’s easy (I fear) for listeners to believe that the prime movers here are photographers and photojournalists, rather than editors and publishers.

As Mary Ann Golan said in your interview, the cover portrait functions as “an advertisement” for the magazine. Editors who are driven by that mandate will consider a photograph’s ability to provoke a strong response---it’s dramatic light or situation, the beauty or repulsiveness of it’s subject, it’s graphic power and strong color---ever as much as they might it’s journalistic integrity, and they’ll hire photographers who can deliver that kind of picture. But all that drama, light and color rarely visit the same real-world locale at the same time as photographer and subject have agreed to meet. Photojournalists, who work in that real world and who must make the best of whatever luck and fate allow them in a given moment, are therefore not the first or best purveyors of those pre-conceived, highly controlled photo “happenings” that most cover shoots become. Their journalistic training and integrity, their ethical principles, are just not at issue when the game moves into the heightened reality of a commercial photographer’s studio.

Dec. 08 2008 11:55 AM
Bob Garfield


This piece wasn't about newspaper photojournalists. There was zero reason to interview any. As the piece said in the intro, their ethical standards are well established. This was about art photographers working for news outlets, where no such standards seem to exist.
So you are offended and annoyed for no reason.
Bob Garfield

Dec. 05 2008 03:23 PM
elaine ellman from new york

As a photographer who has done work in every category, including many portraits of people celebrated and obscure, always using the guide my mentor, Lisette Model provided: "..the subject tells you how it should be photographed," I
think the wrong questions about ethics led to confusion.

The same ethical questions apply to everyone who believes there is a responsibility to contribute constructively to society (current jargon: social responsibility for stakeholders).

Regardless of the category, a photographer's task is a search for truth while aware that, being people, we cannot help but explore the objective facts subjectively. We perceive through a prism of unique experience, values, psychic make-up. In portraiture we explore to pick up on a subject's authenticity and, by using appropriate photographic technique, make visual, in two dimensions, the living experience of the person through his/her physical expressions and shape. The more empathetic the collaboration, the stronger the result.

Manipulation with ulterior motive is something else: in the illuminating tradition of satirizing it sometimes offends, while alteration to glamorize usually pleases. A case could be made (at another time, place) that presenting the famous as "perfect" is the destructive force.

Elaine Ellman

Dec. 04 2008 07:19 PM
Anastasia Drabicky from Austin, TX

Many people have already pointed this out, but I want to add my voice to the chorus. I am a working (newspaper) photojournalist in Austin. Having been trained as such, I follow a well-defined code of ethics. The NPPA (National Press Photographers Association) is a great place you could have looked to find such a set of ethics.

I was offended and annoyed that you didn't talk to any actual photojournalists, who would have been able to better speak about the ethics we adhere to. This line, in particular, riled me up: "When it comes to ethics or canons of conduct, the lines, if they even exist, are maddeningly out of focus." The lines in fact do exist and are in clear focus for those of us trained in journalism departments across the land. I can't speak for art photographers, so they may have a set of ethics or guidelines by which they work.

The story would have been greatly improved, too, if you'd talked to some photojournalists at a newspaper. Non-journalist listeners will lump magazines and newspapers together in this and then shake their heads, "Well it's no wonder newspapers are failing. Can't even be bothered to come up with a set of ethics for their photographers." I normally love OTM, but this one came came out sounding one-sided, and as if you were practicing your own form of gotcha journalism.

Dec. 04 2008 05:46 PM
juan martinez

the portrait is this magazines represents attitude, the advertising of this issue will reflect on the population in which takes a vote. the photographer emphazises on mainly the face in which the eyes are the profound visualization

Dec. 04 2008 02:47 AM

I think that we could never put limitations on the way photographers portray us in the media. Photographers are the one aspect of journalism that helps to push the envelope of imagination and realism! Without a strong and powerful picture half of our magazines, newspapers, or famous photos would not appeal to people as well as they do.

Dec. 04 2008 01:14 AM
F. from NYC

It's the mutual manipulation game. There's a show up of Avedon's work in NYC at this point. Instructive.

I do wonder why the famous portrait of Morgan was omitted. The one where he is grasping the back of a chair, and with the light just so, and the look on his face, the mind does see the glint of a blade in that chair.

Dec. 03 2008 02:40 PM
Matt from Arlington, Virginia

Cut the Gordian Knot already Bob! These photographers are adding an editorial component to their work and then claiming that any disagreement is with the art and not with the ideas they attempt to convey.

Would OTM countenance the protection of self proclaimed editorializing via a journalistic news reporting label? I would think not!

I am all for controversial photographs. Curtailing the debate surrounding the photographs and the editorial decisions of photographers and the editors is where the media and media commentators fail in applying the proper ethical standards.

Comparing the photograph of Michelle Obama with the dishonesty of the super-zoomed Sarah Palin photo shows the editorial one-sidedness of this debate. Pictures of Democrats are taken based on the underlying news story while the pictures of Republicans and conservatives purport some artistic counter to their policy positions and political activities. A complete failure under the ethical standard all informed citizens should share -- intellectual honesty.

Dec. 03 2008 01:44 PM
John Lee

You're barking up the wrong tree. It's not photojournalism. It's advertising and marketing. Maryanne Golon from Time hit it right on the mark. You cannot subject the same standards of documentary photojournalism to high-art portraiture (celebrity or not). If an image appears to the readers/viewers that the photo shoot was a controlled conceived portrait situation, then the photographer's artistic license is perfectly fine. Photo portraiture at that level is more akin to portraiture done with painting. It's interpretive.

Dec. 03 2008 12:44 PM
Dennis Lang

I think many of the above comments addressed this issue. Platon finds digital manipultion "loathsome". When isn't the photogapher manipulating: lighting, angle, depth of field...?

Dec. 03 2008 10:50 AM
a portrait photographer

*I admit the abdication happened 20 years prior to the portrait, even though I said "just abdicated" and "covering". The portrait was probably commissioned for other reasons in 1957. Yet, I feel my point is still relevant. A portrait of OJ Simpson done now would still have to have some refection on his trial of the mid 90's.

Dec. 02 2008 11:44 PM
a portrait photographer

Applying "ethical" standards to portrait photography as Bob Garfield does here is akin to saying that reporters and journalists should not be allowed to ask hardball questions, shy from questions that make their subject uncomfortable, or refrain from attempting to make them talk about things they don't want to talk about. That's just ridiculous.

When Avedon shot the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in 1957, they showed up in the studio with iron-clad, media savvy grins. They also, however, brought their beloved family pet, a Yorkshire Terrier. Avedon realized that he wasn't going to get them to drop their game face, so he concocted a story about how he had a Yorkie as a boy and it died a horrible death - their grins broke and he snapped the now famous portrait. He manipulated them yes, but he got the face of a couple that just abdicated the throne, a fallen King and Queen of England, instead of a pair of grinning idiots.

Shooting their grins would be equivalent to writing a story about them that never mentions his abdication. It wouldn't have been relevant.

I would ask any reporter, if they had been covering the extremely scandalous abdication of the throne, which photo they would want to run accompanying the piece.. the grins or the grimace?

Dec. 02 2008 11:29 PM
Steve Buchanan from Maryland

Amongst commercial photographers, magazine work is generally referred to as 'editorial.' One wouldn't turn to the 'editorial' pages of the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal and expect objectivism, nor should we expect it in magazines.
Photographers take their cues from their clients, after all, they're the ones paying the bill. Admittidely, many readers don't understand these nuances, but hopefully astute readers (and listeners of OTM) do.

Dec. 02 2008 09:06 PM
pv from Chicago

Is there any particular reason why your slide show for this piece tries to dump .exe files onto my desktop? Just show the pictures on a single page instead of using badly-written javascript please.

Dec. 02 2008 07:49 PM
Erin from DC

I think the portrait piece this week missed the whole meat of the issue. The issue is not objectivity. Objectivity can't be achieved in photography where each decision from lighting to exposure to angle, etc. is conveying the photographer's opinion. The issue is line between subjectivity and exploitation---a far more difficult line to identify!

Dec. 02 2008 04:26 PM
gordon clay from manassas, va

Guys, I love your show and have been listening for a few years. My message to you at this time is to do a NEW PIECE about atheism in the US!! I have heard the segment about atheism on your broadcast the weekend of 29-30 November at least once, maybe twice before on your show. Not only are there atheists in foxholes, ther are quite a few of us cowering in Defense Department cubicles as well (but we are pretty low key about it), hoping to some day be liberated from the proliferation of obnoxious and embarassingly inane government sponsored religious activities held in our offices. We need more respect and exposure, and where else can we possibly get it than from a great show like OTM (well, and other NPR news shows). HELP!!
This was "not edited" by Brooke. Have a nice week.

Dec. 02 2008 03:52 PM
John from Arizona

As far as the comments I've read here I think
a lot of you are contradicting yourselves. Regardless of to whom the obligation of the photographer is the result would be work equal in quality your past work and of a standard expected (by magazine or subject does not matter) they both expected a straight forward portrait.

It was an unprofessional thing to do she hid her intent from Atlantic. She lied to people on set about what she was doing. She lied to editors before and after shoot regarding what the image would look like.

And the work that she made:

A monkey taking a crap on John McCain's head. really? Are you five years old?

Putting blood on his face and calling him a blood thirsty war monger only works to show her ignorance to the issue of foreign policy and American history.

Just like her photographs of children crying they are poorly conceived political messages that hold no substance.

Dec. 02 2008 03:39 PM
John from Arizona

Part 3

Regardless of that, the images were exclusive for the cover of Atlantic. Her posting of the images while that issue was still for sale violated the terms of their agreement.

She was also granted access to John McCain (talent) for the soul purpose of taking photographs for the cover of the magazine. Her setting up a second set and admitting that she shot extra images with the intent of using them for this purpose violated another term of the agreement.

Also business ethics laws would hold her responsible for her intention sabotage of the job. Under merchantability she was expected to deliver a result that was up to industry standard quality which her work was not.

Had she not admitted that she intentionally did this she wouldn't have this problem but she did. She intentionally misrepresented her product.

She was also hired based on her prior work. The work she delivered was not equal in quality to her prior work.

She broke many conditions of the contract and she got lucky. If you did what she did and you weren't Jill Greenberg and Atlantic didn't want to hide their mistake you would be getting sued left and right.

It's unfortunate for John McCain that Atlantic was so careless and that they won't take responsibility for their mistakes by taking legal action against Greenberg.

Dec. 02 2008 03:39 PM
John from Arizona

Part 2
I would say it is an ethical violation to do what she did when she was not being hired as an artist but as a master of a craft to create something on commission, but that is debatable.

What is not debatable is the legality of what she did. She violated a contract on several grounds. Like I said, Atlantic would never sue her because all they would get is a lot of bad press and reminders of their mistake. There probably wasn't much consideration in the contract because the monetary value of already printed images would be rather low and she is rather rich.

In an interview with Fox News Bennet even said "She has violated the terms of our agreement with her".

Now, I can't find any credible information regarding the contract (I found one blog that claimed there was a 3 week embargo on the images but that seems extremely short for images of any celebrity let alone a major party candidate for presidency). Most likely it was a one year embargo on the images which is pretty standard for celebrities.

Dec. 02 2008 03:39 PM
John from Arizona

"The Vaughan Hannigan photo agency, which has represented the disgraced, excrement-obsessed photoshopper Jill Greenberg, has just dropped her from its client list. Bill Hannigan, who runs the agency, told me a few minutes ago that Greenberg and the agency had "different views on how to conduct business." He said he couldn't say anything more because he is "still sorting out some issues with Jill related to her contract."

I know she claims she wasn't dropped by her agency but they but when the agency comes out and gives a statement saying they dropped you it's hard to wiggle out of that.

But that really doesn't matter I'm sure this incident only helped her career by making her a top of the page story on every blog in the world for a week.

She never got sued by Atlantic but only because they were embarrassed that they made the mistake of hiring her.

Dec. 02 2008 03:38 PM
Kathy from Minneapolis

I really think you missed the point. Commercial and portrait photographers are NOT photojournalists, much in the same way an art photographer is not a photojournalist.

Bill Koplitz and Patrick have it right - a photojournalist strives to maintain a professional and personal code of ethics, the NPPA Code of Ethics being the most widespread.

In response to ST Readings comment, my belief is that photojournalism strives to show the truth. It may not always be pretty, but it's real and it's what was really in front of the camera. At the very least that is what I strive to do.

I have dual degrees in Art and Journalism, so I understand what Ms. Greenberg is talking about when she says "I went to art school, so I don't know what those canons and ethics are". I don't know of any art school or program where they would teach journalism ethics. It simply doesn't apply. Why should it?

The simple answer to the whole question is: If you want a photojournalist (or someone who is responsible to a journalistic code of ethics) - Hire a photojournalist.

You wouldn't send a wedding photographer to cover a riot, would you? Remember not everyone with a camera is a photojournalist. Being a photojournalist is more than having good equipment and knowing how to use it. It's training. It's understanding and maintaining a code of ethics. It's behaving professionally and responsibly, often in difficult situations and being able to put your personal feelings aside.

Dec. 02 2008 01:30 PM
Giovanni DB from Metz, France

I think what makes the things confusing nowadays is that photography is not based only on reality anymore. The subjectivity of photojournalism is and always will be part of it. As it is for writing. This subjectivity will affect the so called "truth" but not the reality that was photographed. Today portrait photography could be seen as illustration based on reality. The production (both from the photographer and the portrayed person) and the post-production are so heavy that the reality is only a pure base to work from. These portraits could have been drawn it would have been the same (but look less real). This is illustration and the press have the right to use it as it has the right to use satire or anything that is not defamatory to express its point of view.
So it does not in my point of view be under the ethics of journalism as it is not journalism, it is illustration.
Even I do like some of the work shown, in my opinion, thought, it is hard sometimes to still call it photography. I'll call it instead "photoshop-phy".

Dec. 02 2008 11:06 AM
Bill Koplitz from Washington, DC

Your question, "But what obligation is there to the subject?" is easy to answer, these commercial photographers have no obligation to the subject, their obligation is to the client to produce art that sells magazines. There is no photojournalism here, it's art.

Dec. 02 2008 08:52 AM
John Witte from Portland, OR

Wull Mr. Garfield---seems like you did a bit of a hatchet job on your interviewees (the several photogs) yourself, what with your making them sound like Bugs Bunny or Donald Duck on a bad day with your digital manipulation (speeding up, for want of a better characterisation, or?) of their voices---just so you could fit it all in the time allotted?, I don't think so! Could it be you were giving 'em a dose of their own medicine, audibly so to speak?

BTW "Media are" works for me.

cheers---John Witte

Portalnd, OR

Dec. 02 2008 12:13 AM
Patrick from Nevada

As far as the memo, here is a link to the National Press Photographers Code of Ethics:

Not all photojournalists are members but this is one of the largest organized groups for photojournalists. We may not be as flashy as these photographers but we hold to a standard of ethics so as to present the readers something without it bathed in our personal beliefs.

Mrs. Greenfield I am sure is not a member and like a previous poster said just a commercial/art photographer as were the other photographers you interviewed for your story. The Atlantic Monthly should have been angry with her since she was hired as their representative and would not have had Sen. McCain there otherwise.

There are many ethical problems in photojournalism(such as digital manipulation) but please, make the distinction between these photographers and the professional photojournalists who try to live by this code of ethics.

Dec. 01 2008 04:32 PM
Dorian Benkoil from New York

Photo journalism is the easy one -- where the manipulations are easy to see and be quantified. But the the filters and lenses apply in all forms. It's just not as obvious, not as easy to tell, for example, what's left out of the frame in a TV shot, how editing two snippets together might serve to convey a preconception, how choosing a choice quote can steer a story one way or another.

Journalists can approach fairness and strive for objectivity. But can they achieve it?

Dec. 01 2008 01:40 PM
David Quigg from Seattle

What Jill Greenberg did to McCain is the moral equivalent of OTM tricking an interviewee into huffing helium before speaking into a microphone.

Tacky. Tacky. Tacky.

And counterproductive. If Greenberg's stunt moved any votes (which I doubt), I suspect it fueled perceptions of media bias and caused a few voters to drift toward McCain. Surely, nobody looked at that flashlight-under-the-chin, campfire-ghost-story lighting and thought, "Wow! You know, come to think of it, McCain actually IS evil and I'm going to vote for Obama."

In any lighting, I despised McCain's candidacy. In response to McCain/Palin's demonization of Professor Rashid Khalidi, I wrote a HuffPost piece in October describing McCain as a "vicious, desperate, careless, doddering bully." So it takes a lot for me to rise to his defense. But this is simple. Greenberg wronged McCain.

One last thing. A quick Googling will show that I'm an aspiring photographer. Feel free to chalk up my criticism of Greenberg to mere envy.

But I don't want to be her. I hope most photographers don't either. And once some time passes, I hope even Greenberg won't want to be this version of herself. Ultimately, I hope she will apologize to McCain.

Dec. 01 2008 03:31 AM
Douglas Levere from Buffalo, NY

Photo Journalism? Do you think that a studio portrait (like all of the images you have shown in the gallery) is Photo Journalism? I have been shooting these kind of images for national magazines for many years. I have never considered myself a photojournalist. I do not have nor ever have had a Press Pass even after working in NYC for 15 years. This is portrait photography it can be creative, boring, slick, beautiful, good, bad and ugly. As said her by others above, it is all about what the subject has to give, what the photographer can elicit from the subject and hopefully a point of view.

As to the memo you speak of at the end of the segment, "Memo yet to be written", could you elaborate? Should it read "don't take any unflattering photos"? Who should interpret what is flattering or not? I guess we should get the lawyers from these corporations that give us those wonderful magazine contracts to sign. We should have them define that decision as well.

All of the photographers you have in this piece are commercial portrait photographers. Very good at what they do. You can like it or hate it, but photojournalists they are not.

FYI Here is the Wikipedia definition of photojournalism

You can be sure, from this definition that none of the images you have included in your gallery are representations of photojournalism.

Dec. 01 2008 12:25 AM
S.T. Reading from San Bernardino, CA

I found this story rather odd and quite forced. "Photo journalism," I think, attempts to depict "news," so that people not present at an event can be visually informed. Portraiture, by contrast, at least in my mind, is art from the perspective of the artist. The former can become the latter, but the original intentions of each is rather different.

Hollywood celebrities demand control over published photos, of course, because these people "sell" their image. I find this completely different from "selling" magazines with cover photos, and different again from artistic portraits.

Perhaps it would have been more appropriate to ask what are the differences in "ethics" in photo journalism, selling celebrity images, selling magazines and producing art? To lump these all together diminishes the quality of this program.

Nov. 30 2008 08:57 PM
Sue Keller from Maryland

Mr. Garfield, please accept my apology. You are correct.

Nov. 30 2008 07:47 PM
Gaby C

The story failed to mention that the crying babies photo series had titles like "four more years," "left behind" and "cover up;" all jabs at conservatism. So why wasn't Miss Greenberg introduced as a "left wing photographer," since Ann Coulter was called "right wing?"

Nov. 30 2008 06:30 PM
Bob Garfield

sue keller,

that was a direct reference to martin schoeller's remark about richard avedon's work...about 60 seconds earlier.


Nov. 30 2008 04:15 PM
Sue Keller from Maryland

I only caught the end of this story today on the radio. I'm sure that Mr. Garfield meant no offense when he said something along the lines of no one wants to appear "mentally challenged" (his words) in their photos. Sadly, he probably thought that what he was saying was perfectly acceptable.

But I can only wonder how people who do have mental challenges - those with intellectual disabilities or mental illness - and those who love them are supposed to feel. Appreciated, included, loved? I don't think so.

Before you accuse me of being too sensitive, try this test: substitute any other minority for "mentally challenged" and see how that sounds. For instance, try "homosexual" or "African-American" or "Jewish".

Mr. Garfield, like most of us, would never even entertain the thought of saying someone looked undesirable simply because they are gay or black or Jewish. Please include people with disabilities under the sensitivity umbrella. It's really not OK anymore to stigmatize people with disabilities, even in a casual way.

Nov. 30 2008 03:18 PM
Wylie from Austin, TX

As a portrait photographer (albeit, not one who shoots many celebrities or politicians), I think the story later in the show regarding "media is" vs "media are" comments on the photography one. In that story, it is mentioned that the traditional media attempts to see the new forms as trying to be like them. Here, I see journalists trying to cast portrait photographers as photojournalists, which I've never felt to be the case. While there are photojournalists who shoot great portraiture, not every portraitist is or wants to be a photojournalist. The point, as I see it, is to try and capture the "who" of a subject, so far as you can see it, through any means necessary. It isn't to tell the objective truth, but the subjective. And while I think Jill Greenberg is unethical and, well, a jerk, it isn't journalistic ethics I find her violating, but those of simple human decency.

Nov. 30 2008 12:24 PM
Jack McCullough from Montpelier, Vt.

Interesting piece on photojournalism.

I was surprised that your story did not include a discussion of the flap over the portrayal of Sarah Palin that took place this fall. She was featured in a full-face cover of Newsweek, and the right wingers immediately started complaining that the very fact that Newsweek hadn't retouched her photo, the way they would retouch some Hollywood celebrity, proved that they are part of the liberal media deliberately trying to make her look bad. This is obviously a claim that never deserved to be taken seriously, except as another example of how the Right tries to demonize the media to suit their own political goals.

I agree, however, that it would have been unacceptable editorializing for The Atlantic to have used the lit from below photo of McCain. The fact that they didn't illustrates their journalistic integrity.

Nov. 30 2008 11:06 AM
Robert from NYC

Those are really ugly portrayals of the subjects. Personally I don't like them but they are artistic; it's what I call "ugly art" the anti-aesthetic!

Nov. 30 2008 10:46 AM
Jon from Wi

That time photo of Putin above doesn't really say anything at all. It is not threatening. Nor is it loving. Nor is it really dull either. Maybe it says more about Time magazine than Putin.

Also, Sometimes I listen to your program on our local WPR and it is an hour long. But this streaming audio is only like 15 minutes. Is that all you are allowed to post up of a program or am I just not finding the longer version?

Nov. 30 2008 10:18 AM
p0ps from NYC

A fine illustrated discussion. All photos lie, by omission. They represent only one narrow view of one moment in a sitter's life. Like all art, they tell a selective truth. To be valuable, the small truth told is best if it is a truth both photographer and sitter agree should be told. Portraits are, by nature collaboration between photographer and sitter. For convenience, the sitter my abdicate their end of the collaboration by allowing the photographer to decide how to develop the image and what to publish. As a photographer myself, I would never publish a portrait of someone without either their prior or tacit approval - that would be unfair to the collaborative nature of portraiture.

Nov. 29 2008 10:32 AM
john staudenmaier sj from detroit mi (the actual city part)

Your atheism piece ff by snap judgments got me out of bed to write. Snap judgments, in my judgment, was one of your many masterpieces -- deft and subtle, respecting and interrogating portrait photographers in the same frame. Atheism; oh my! As if religious (includes anti-) debate divides certitudinous believers from atheists as defenders of doubt! I've been a RC (Jesuit) priest for a 38 years; the common quality of those atheists and believers whom I enjoy and trust, is their holding convictions with passion and their certainties with a lighter grip. Humility and affection for the human condition trumps any righteous absence of doubt.

One such voice in your interpretive mix and I'd have liked your piece the way I do most of your work.

Nov. 29 2008 08:16 AM

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