Post Photographer Who Is Responsible and What Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

POST Photographer

Who is Responsible and What for? -- An Analysis of Abbasi's Subway-Death Photo

In terms of taking the photograph that appeared on the front page of The New York Post -- the newspaper which published the image of a man seconds away from being killed by a charging subway train -- it may be argued that in a world of journalistic sensationalism, R. Umar Abbasi was simply doing his job snapping a picture of "every New Yorker's nightmare" (Pearson). Yet, in terms of being a caring human being, a good neighbor, a helpful stander-by, a verdict is not so easily reached. For one thing, Abbasi claims he was trying to help Ki-Suck Han, the man who had been pushed onto the tracks, by popping the flash of his camera at the speeding train as a warning to its conductor to slow down. Perhaps, in a shocked state, Abbasi could think of no better mode of action. Others claim that instead of playing with his camera, Abbasi should have run to Han's rescue and tried, at least, to pull him out. Was there time for such an action? Perhaps, but the responsibilities of a photo-journalist are not necessarily the same as those of any other ordinary citizen -- not in today's media empire. This paper will show how our "snuff porn," "rubbernecking," "profit-motive journalism" culture promotes the capturing and using of such images (Pearson), thereby rendering the responsibilities of the photographer and the publishing moot at best.

It must be admitted that our culture has an odd way of looking at death. On one hand it is fascinated by it (films today feature graphic "war-porn," "torture-porn," and various other faces of death), but on the other it is afraid of it (the very business of funeral homes is centered on making "death" more palatable). What is a photographer's responsibility in the face of such a cultural contradiction? What should he do in life and death events? Is it his responsibility to capture them, document them, and record them in all their dramatic glory for all posterity? Is the photographer a witness at best, a passive instrument? Or does his membership in the human race trump his membership in the journalists' circle? In short, is his responsibility to help to save lives whenever possible, or to simply photograph the unimaginable? In our day and age, one's subjective experience often takes precedence over one's objective experience. Objectively speaking, Han died because no one helped to lift him from the tracks. Subjectively speaking, Han died because our culture has a strange relationship with death and would just as soon watch a man's demise as prevent it. Abbasi, in one sense, did little to help Han. But in another sense he gave our society exactly what it wanted -- what television stations give it every day: death-fueled stimulus.

The strange thing about this case, however, is that Abbasi does not claim any such intention. He argues that the photographs were the incidental result of his using the camera's flash to…

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