Showing Faces

Recent ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests have raised once more an old subject, with some protesters criticising or even attacking photographers for showing the faces of protesters in photographs.

When I’ve been criticised in the past for doing so, my response has usually been clear. If people are in public, and particularly if they are taking part in activities directed to the public – like protests – then they should expect to be photographed. If they do not wish to be identified they should wear masks and avoid distinctive clothing. Of course at the moment they should be wearing masks in any case.

It’s my job as a photographer and journalist to report. To tell a story as accurately and fully as I can. Of course in doing so I have to make choices, and sometimes I have deliberately chosen not to take particular photographs where I have thought they would distort the story. There have been occasions when – for various reasons – I’ve been asked not to take or publish pictures of particular individuals, and where there have been good (or legal) reasons I’ve gone along with this.

I admire Yunghi Kim for her photography and for the support she has given to other photographers in various ways – including the Yunghi Grants. She has written a longer and better expressed piece about the subject, “Is agreeing NOT to show a person’s face against the ethics of journalism?” which I commend to you.

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