In the article the clearly commited Lewkowicz comments that:
Shane attacked Maggie, throwing her into chairs, pushing her up against the wall and choking her in front of her daughter, Memphis.
After I confirmed one of the housemates had called the police, I then continued to document the abuse — my instincts as a photojournalist began kicking in. If Maggie couldn’t leave, neither could I …
The incident raised a number of ethical questions. I’ve been castigated by a number of anonymous internet commenters who have said that I should have somehow physically intervened between the two. Their criticism counters what actual law enforcement officers have told me — that physically intervening would have likely only made the situation worse, endangering me, and further endangering Maggie.
I totally agree with Lewkowicz that physically getting involved is not a good idea. But I’m also interested at what point she decided to put down her camera and find out if the police had been called? Clearly it was later than the person who decided to put the call in. That takes time.
It is of course a very difficult situation and there are no easy answers. On the one hand photographers like to think of themselves as invisible and on the other hand we know that’s simply not true, that by being there you are having an effect on the situation. Take for example the distressed child, what does she make of the fact that a woman is taking pictures whilst her Mum is being choked?
I would also take issue with Lewkowicz’s definition of a photojournalists instincts. I have worked with many fine journalists who I’m pretty sure would have taken a different position; would have put down the camera and picked up the child or gone for help, and they too would have been working from instinct.
That is not to say that in anyway Lewkowicz did the wrong thing. Just that as a ‘photojournalist’ she didn’t categorically do the the right thing either.
As I’m sure she would admit herself its complex, and sometimes there are more important things then getting the shot, even if your career depends upon it.