From stories about foreign wars to domestic political rifts, there is plenty of media manipulation. Partisans for various causes are eager to use photographers to get their propaganda out. Photographers discussed strategies for avoiding that in “Documenting White Supremacy,” a story in our November issue. Here is some of their advice:

“If you fall into the drama, if you show [white supremacists] as bad asses [and] hit it from the surface, but you don’t go deeper, and you don’t analyze, then there’s an argument to be made you’re enforcing whatever stereotype they want to project” says Natalie Keyssar, who has documented white supremacists in Europe. “If they can put their slogans all over your images to make propaganda, if there’s no context, maybe think about what you’re doing.” She adds, ““If we can’t get honestly curious, as opposed to just excited about access to something we think is bad, then we shouldn’t be working on that subject.”

John Edwin Mason, a photographer, critic and University of Virginia professor, warns photographers not to rush in naively. “To paraphrase Tod Papageorge: If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not reading enough.” He explains: “You don’t want to be the victim of your sources, some of whom are sophisticated, educated and articulate. If you don’t know where they’re coming from, you might get swept away by their rhetoric, by their personality, or by the moment. You’ve got to steel yourself against that.” He adds, “You’ve got to be really solid in your own beliefs and convictions, and you’ve got to know the subject matter past and present.”

See: On Documenting White Supremacy: Photojournalists Share Experience, Advice and Warnings

Related:
Photojournalists on Ethics and Their Responsibilities
Do The Right Thing: Nina Berman on Ethical Choices
Do The Right Thing: Victor J. Blue on Ethical Choices
BBC Fooled by Syrian Rebel Propaganda Photo on Twitter
Pakistan UN Envoy Criticizes India, But Uses Gaza News Photo to Do It

 


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