Ethics in photography has been an especially hot topic of debate since it was introduced not only as an art form but as a component of mass media. One very powerful example of an ethical dilemma was brought up by Mrs. King. In 1993, Kevin Carter, a documentary photographer, came across an impoverished girl in Sudan struggling to crawl towards water where everyone else had headed. As he was observing her, a vulture landed near the girl. Carter waited for nearly 20 minutes for the bird to spread its wings in order for a good photograph, but it never did. After taking some photos anyway, he did not help the girl reach the feed station and instead left it to die. The controversy continued when in 1994 Carter won a Pulitzer Prize for the photograph. Sadly, he committed suicide on July 27th, 1994 due to the extreme guilt that he felt for letting the Sudanese girl die when he knew he could have prevented it. His suicide note read, "The pain of life overrides the joy to the point that joy does not exist."
There have been many arguments that Carter’s lack of intervention on the girl’s behalf was fully justified. Before leaving on the assignment, he and the other photographers were instructed not to touch anyone for fear of epidemics. Furthermore, the ethical role and duty of a photographer is to observe and not interfere.
The general question is this: Does there come a point where these ground rules and ethical duties as a photojournalist should be ignored for the sake of a human life? Where does the standard of beneficence come into play? This also applies to nature photography. When is it (or is it) acceptable to help an animal struggling in its natural circumstances? For example, is it okay to help a newly hatched sea turtle make it into the ocean? Fair arguments can be made for both sides of these questions and ethics in photography truly resides in a “gray” area. What do you think?
Photo and information on Kevin Carter from: http://worldsalbum.blogspot.com