An instrument for the truth. . .
We don't often think of a camera as a weapon. However, as society moves forward, it's becoming more apparent that the camera, indeed, is becoming at least a protection device. Photographs and videos, used positively, have brought attention to ills of society, ranging from environmental destruction to political chicanery. The strong reality of still photos and video have served as evidence in court cases; ranging from the Los Angeles police beating of Rodney King a decade ago, to the more recent Madelyne Gorman Toogood beating of her 4-year old daughter in the parking lot of a northern Indiana department store.
It may be that the still photos and film footage the general public was exposed to in a distant land during the Vietnam War contributed to the halting of that war.
The PBS run of Ken Burn's Civil War series has honed our awareness of what happened on our own soil to boys that went off to war and never came back. Mathew Brady's records of tragically strewn bodies did not have television to increase their exposure. But the exposure they did get served as a powerful reminder to both sides that war wasn't the answer to the era’s burning issues.
In modern times we have seen reality images not only inform but entertain us. More often than not, they validate us. The success of The Blair Witch Project, the Survival series, CSI, COPS, etc. , remind us that as we become more aware of our environment, both urban and natural, we are in a better position to understand where we are and where we are going.
As an editorial photographer, you fit into a society that is hungry for information. Some of it is uplifting - some of it is not always good. There will always be factions in your city, town, or village that will attempt to prevent you from capturing scenes in the course of your experience and observations. It goes with the territory. It's your decision, as it was Mathew Brady's. . . to do the job.
Note: According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington DC < epic.org >, the courts have generally ruled that someone in a public place doesn't have the expectation of privacy.
Rohn Engh is director of PhotoSource International and publisher of PhotoStockNotes. Pine Lake Farm, 1910 35th Road, Osceola, WI 54020 USA. Telephone: 1 800 624 0266 Fax: 1 715 248 7394. Web site: www.photosource.com/products