Thursday, November 03, 2011

Photojournalism Ethics

This photo was taken in 1975 in Boston by Stanley J. Forman. It won the Pulitzer prize in 1976. The photo shows a woman and child falling from a building during a fire when the fire escape gave way right at the moment a fireman's ladder reached them. We assume that both the woman and child are about to fall to their death. Turns out, the woman died as soon as she hit the ground and the child survived because she landed on the woman's stomach. What is more chilling about this photo then a photo of the end result? Would you have published this photo? Is it any more or less ethical to publish a photo showing the last moment before death than of death itself?

Epilogue: Forman's work paved the way for Boston and other states to mandate tougher fire safety codes.

-Stellar Cassidy


....J.Michael Robertson said...

Excellent job tracking this famous - famous to journalists - photo down. Thanks for the epilogue. Is this just another classic utilitarian dilemma?

Rachelle said...

This photo is similar to the one we discussed in class on Wednesday about the soon-to-be dead baby in the fireman's arms. Capturing a photo of a person's life right before it expires is very powerful and can definitely be seen as unethical if published to an audience. The photo in question with the woman and child falling off the fire escape is almost sickening to look at, similar to the World Trade Center jumper photos - you want to look and throw up at the same time. Was it ethical to publish? Yes and no. As a human being, no, I wouldn't want to see this in my morning paper, or in any paper. It's horrible and it's private - if that was my Mother, I would be beyond any sort of sane grief level knowing that millions of people saw her die. It is only "okay" to publish because her death saved the baby's life. And because this photo became an awareness for fire escapes to be built safely and to code. So it's debatable. Obviously it was published and at least something good came from it.

Anonymous said...

The image is essential to the story, so it must be published. Words can't convey the power of the scene, but the photo can.
Ten years from now you'll remember the photo, but "woman and child falling from Boston fire escape" will mean nothing.

best chicago dentist said...

photos do tell a lot of stories but knowing the story behind this photo i shouldn't have posted it with respect to the one who died.