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You leave that night and absolutely can’t change the travel schedule. You refuse to take the picture because you put the boy there and it’s not a true “found moment”. You place the child in the path to make a portrait, and demand that the boy keep still with his eyes fixated on you, lest anyone think that a photograph of him looking around or walking down his daily path was actually a reality 6 days/week. You’re given rare access to photograph a presidential campaign headquarters with a dozen other members of the media.
You also get the sense that just before you arrived, the organizers said, “Places, people! You say, no thank you, that was posed for me and I refuse to take the picture. You take the picture and then delete it, because people might think it was a candid moment and you can’t have that. You take the picture because even if it was staged for the camera, he sometimes does do that, making it an honest depiction of the person’s life. You’ve made an appointment to photograph a couple in another state for a story about their infant, who died during a measles outbreak due to lack of immunizations by other parents.
” The national campaign manager steps in for a few minutes and is mobbed by the media. You photograph the campaign manager at his desk but decide to say something in your caption like, “Campaign manager pretends it’s normal to have a dozen news media photographing him” and you tell your editor. You’re on the top of a skyscraper, looking down on window-washers for a story about their business. You learn that the couple goes every single morning to the cemetery to mourn the child’s death.
You are being judged every day, and if an arrogant security man chooses so, there is nothing that can stop you from becoming “collateral damage” in a war that has already consumed tens of thousands of lives.
The tussle between the media, Indian military and police in Kashmir has run for decades now.
In my case, I feel I have remained objective, since my approach in my personal projects is to remain totally journalistic.
No matter the events and participants, the facts are paramount.
LC: Working once more in your native city, how can you see it clearly as a photographer and journalist?
AQ: There is always a notion that if you are covering your own war, you will be biased and unable to show the “real” picture.
A voice in the crowd calls out, “Hey, how about a shot at your desk? You refuse to take a picture that was prompted by a member of the media (…or was it prompted by an aide? Essentially, you kick the “ethics can” down the road to the photo desk. You photograph the scene, comfortable that because you didn’t stage the photograph, it’s ok. You agree to shoot in the office, but refuse to photograph anything but the mob of people, accepting that most every other news outlet will go with the video or still of him at his desk. While rappelling down, one of the men says, “Wanna see something? At the airport, you discover your flight is delayed and you can’t make it that morning.
You call and they graciously and earnestly offer to wait for you before heading to the child’s grave. You say, no thank you, I’ll just get a portrait of you at home. You say, ok yes please wait for me, I’ll see you shortly. You tell them, thank you but I’ll only go the cemetery to take a portrait and not anything that might look real because my concerns as an ethical photographer trump your hourly reality as bereaved parents. You arrive to 30% of your assignments and the subjects ask you, “What do you want me to do? The documentary photographer inside of you screams inside, in multiple waves of pain that leaves you with an empty, shattered sense of the way journalism is supposed to be. You don’t respond because anything you say would be directing or leading your subject.