Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Value of a Photo: What is the Difference Between Cost and Worth?

Hannah Yang | hy135010@ohio.edu

What is the difference between cost and value? Normally, whenever an individual talks about cost, you can place a number on it. It's worth "insert amount here."
It costs "so and so much" here.
Isaac Hale, a sophomore studying photojournalism, preps his
camera at The Post, an independent student daily newspaper
in Athens, OH. (Photo Credit | Hannah Yang)

Whenever we talk about the different ethical practices in photography today, we begin to question what value really means.

If we can remember memorable pictures that impact an individual, we cannot really measure the worth of a photo.

Rather, the value.

Today's journalists should be taught about images in a way that it tells the story in the way words cannot begin to describe. They're not just visual aids that help draw attention to the story, rather, it should best tell the story in that one photo.

Remember photos such as "The Afghan Girl" that graced the 1985 cover of National Geographic by photojournalist Steve McCurry? The photo was remembered as one of the history's most memorable photographs.

The piercing gaze, the eyes that haunt your the back of your mind? McCurry remembered the nameless girl for years and finally, he went on a search to find her and tell her story. Eventually, he found her and had the opportunity to shoot her portrait again, this time with name. He sought after her so that she had the chance to tell her story.

Isn't that what photos should prompt? The mere concept of photography is not just so there is a visual aspect of a story, but an image that tells the story as well.

The woman whose eyes gaze right into the soul; she has a name. She has a story.

Sharbat Gula.
http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2002/04/afghan-girl/index-text Her story was told to the world in 2002, after McCurry found her after 17 years of wondering who she was.
Left: "Afghan Girl" 1985 National Geographic Steve McCurry
Right: Gula in 2002 National Geographic Steve McCurry
Courtesy of the NPR

A photo should aid in telling a story. Rather than concerning the self with trying to sell a story. The ethics of what is more important weighs in.

But, what happens when ethics are discarded? What happens if an image does not serve in the way it's supposed to? Would the value of a photo diminish because it did not serve the way it was meant to?

I want others to think of a moment where you were debating on whether or not an image would be used for selling a story rather than telling it.

What is of greater worth? Selling millions of copies of the story or seeing the value of the story in itself? Seeing that an individual that might have not had a voice finally being able to have one because an image left a remarkable imprint in someone's mind?

In a sense, I feel that the meaning of photos has been lost in translation. Rather than just a visual component a picture, is in a sense, "worth a thousand words."

I could point out the things wrong in photos, such as the infamous "Doomed" front cover of The New York Post where a man was run over in the subway, and the photographer alleged to have taken flash photos so the train conductor could see. It was too late to save the individual in the photo.

It's not so much the content that's horrible, but rather the loss of ethics. Rather than helping tell stories, the subject in the photo shouldn't just remain a subject in the photo. Instead, they should be real, living people who have stories to tell. In that case, it wasn't told. It was a horrible example of how ethics are forgotten when capturing an image.

Don't forget that the people behind the lens are people too. The cost of one photo should never over rule the value of it.

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