The NYC subway push victim, and PJ ethics
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ChiShutter
Registered: Mar 08, 2010
Total Posts: 888
Country: United States

Really interesting conversation going on about the NYC subway photo that the NY Post ran on the cover yesterday. I think the Post was probably out of line to run the photo. I think they were WAY the hell out of line to caption it the way they did ("DOOMED. Pushed on the subway track, this man is about to die.") But what about the photographer? Was he out of line? He's a photojournalist -- and he captured a moment of news as it unfolded, which is his job.

For me, this raises some questions about ethics in photography. Street photographers: do you photograph the homeless? People's homes on fire? Car accidents? Where do we draw the line between documentary photography and the exploitation of suffering? How do you reconcile your answers to those questions (if you find you have to) with iconic, pulitzer-winning photographs out of Vietnam, such as the "naked girl running from napalm attack" picture, or the street execution of a Viet Cong commander?

I have no preconceived notions or answers on this. I thought it might be a good topic for discussion, and would love to hear your perspectives.



Access
Registered: Jun 07, 2004
Total Posts: 1373
Country: United States

I remember a similar story about a similar set of events, a photographer who was on assignment wasn't paying much attention and stumbled then fell onto the subway tracks. A few people offered a hand to try to help him up, but he waved them off and stepped away, despite their yelling. As the train came up to hit him, he just stood with his back to the train, hand extended and camera in front, apparently to snap a few photos before the train hit him. He died and when the cops showed up, they were in total disbelief, not believing the witnesses' testimony until the evidence (photos in the camera) were developed and as evidence they corroborated the witnesses' story. Another note, in this case the paper he was on assignment for did not publish the photos because they did not want to encourage this kind of behavior.



Baywing
Registered: Oct 27, 2009
Total Posts: 436
Country: United States

This is a very sensitive topic. Should the photog have tried to save the man? I don't know. He was heard to have said that he wasn't strong enough to have lifted him. There isn't much on the platform to grab onto, so I wonder if he had tried, he might have been pulled down also. Rescue swimmers are taught that drowning victims can easily drown their rescuers. The photog will have to live with his actions. If it was his job, he did his job. Were there others on the platform and why didn't they assist? As said above, is there much difference between this and the other 2 referenced events other than this event occurred outside of a war zone (and does that even qualify?)?
We have the advantage of time to look at the situation. While it's happening it's pure reactions. In the end, we can't go back and change the outcome, all involved will have to live with their respective actions or inactions. I'm not sure what I would have done in a situation like that and I pray I will never have to find out.
As for the Post, this really isn't a surprize, IMHO they have had bad taste for years but as they are still in business I can only assume that is what their readers want.



Access
Registered: Jun 07, 2004
Total Posts: 1373
Country: United States

Sensitive why? It is just part of life or human psyche.

In any given crisis, where no immediate threat to oneself is posed, 9 in 10 (or more) people will simply stand by and watch. 1 in 10 may assist _if_ no threat is posed by assisting. When a threat is posed by assisting, this ratio drops farther. This phenomenon has been studied by psychologists, mostly since the mid to late 1900's in wanting to comprehend why no one helped despite an unfolding crisis. It happens all the time, every day. It's just part of being human and living among humans. Never expect others to rescue you, look out for yourself, your family, your friends, but do you lend a helping hand to a stranger? You hope that you would be that 1 person if a crisis unfolded in front of you, you like to think you would be the hero, but you really don't know until it happens.

I think this is somewhat cultural, when I told the story about the photographer and the subway train to a friend from the east, his first thought was to admire the photographer for doing his job honorably and to the best of his ability to the very end, even though it cost him his life. Zhuangzi explored death in his writings and questioned whether death was really a bad thing, finding no clear answer.



mrgetalife
Registered: Jul 15, 2005
Total Posts: 313
Country: United States

The unfortunate part of this whole incident. Is even people in New York City do not know how to save people when it comes to the Underground subway part of the City. The Above ground and Below ground saving techniques are different. I only know how to get out of the Below ground situation myself.

To be honest trying to lift the victim out would of ended in two victims. So for all you that venture to NYC and fall into a subway track underground. The only way to survive if a train is to lie flat on the ground pressed against the platform wall side and survive using the space between the wheel and the wall. As the other side is the electrified rail and will also kill you. Trying to climb out is like trying to climb over a Pull-up bar with no wall to assist you.

So given that. I think the PJ's instincts kicked in because he had no idea how to help the victim. Maybe if he knew how to save the guy and had the time to do it he could of done something. I only watched part of the video and don't feel like watching it. But at Normal subway speeds once you are able to see the conductor's head you have about 5 seconds to react before it reaches halfway to where the victim was.



sozypozy
Registered: Jan 02, 2013
Total Posts: 600
Country: United States

This is a debate that I recently had with my friends. Sadly, we couldn't draw a conclusion. Your responses helped me too so thank you



pinball
Registered: Jan 24, 2003
Total Posts: 937
Country: United States

I work in the NYC subways the best is to lay down in the middle of the track in the drain you can actually put a five gallon bucket in between the rails and it wont get hit, people dont realize how much room is underneath it or if you can get to the end of the platform {the leaving end} the train has time to stop.



hugodrax
Registered: Dec 07, 2003
Total Posts: 894
Country: United States

There were a million other people there, where were they? Why did they not help?



Rags Hef
Registered: May 03, 2007
Total Posts: 2996
Country: United States

Seems to me, the photographer should be detached

That said, I used to be a subway commuter; these trains really rush into the station and they can't stop so quickly... help someone who jumped or pushed? not really...

Rags



unravel
Registered: Jun 22, 2012
Total Posts: 127
Country: United States

Interesting discussion, to take it off the subway topic, i've shot homeless and posted a recent picture myself. I asked for permission and he was pleasant enough, he was also sitting on the busiest street during rush hour so he was okay with being exposed. I did give him a small monetary donation as he was sitting with a cup in the first place.

For me personally, it is a bit different as i work in mental health and have dealt with homeless, often mentally ill ones that we see on the streets. I also like to take approach that is spoken of in the war photographer documentary, of exposing the issue through your camera. In my case this man had a cat whom he seemed to really care for and told me a story about. He had quite a grin on his face whenever he'd interact with it and kissed the cat on multiple occasions. This was really the purpose of my taking his pictures, to normalize him and his pet.

Once i actually get a telephoto lens i would only sneak in a picture of a person in a vulnerable position if i imagined the shot and knew its purpose, with that purpose being beyond simple depiction of a run-down individual.

I think simply having an internal dialogue about the issue as well as listening to my gut helps me get through an "ethical dilemma"



Rags Hef
Registered: May 03, 2007
Total Posts: 2996
Country: United States

I came across a trove of photos of the dust bowl victims from a government agency. All of the pictures were of people at their economic ends.

You can characterize the images as exploitative or you can say they're an excellent historical view into the era.

I suspect the people of that time weren't impressed with the images since the tide was low for everyone.

Rags