OUCH: Maggie Steber accuses duckrabbit of conducting a hysterical witchunt. Am I?

There’s no question that Maggie Steber is a top, top photographer. She’s hugely respected for all the right reasons and her voice carries weight.  Tonight she’s written that duckrabbit’s (Benjamin Chesterton’s) questions regarding  Jodi Bieber’s World Press winning photograph are ‘hysterical’ and amount to a ‘witchunt’.  That’s quite a dressing down that deserves some thinking space.

You can read the original post here where Maggie’s thoughts were posted.

Below is Maggie’s comment (in which she makes some good points, some ill informed ones and some pretty revealing ones), and beneath is my response. Please make up your own mind, but I would like to point out nowhere have I stated that I think ‘Bieber was complicit with Time Magazine’s headline’.

(UPDATE Maggie has since written clarifying her original comments, which I have added to the bottom of the post.  For the record I don’t think Maggie owes duckrabbit any kind of apology. None.  Some people think that she was spot on in her criticism, others disagree; that’s just the nature of duckrabbit.)


Maggie SteberI’m growing tired of this accusation that somehow Jodi Bieber was complicit with Time Magazine’s headline.

I can tell you that she was absolutely dismayed about the headline but this is something not in her control.
So many commenters behave as though she was complicit and I’m so sorry because not coming out and publicly decrying something that magazine does—this isn’t the first time TIME MAGAZINE has supported war—does not infer compliance.

I see that you neglected to mention in your comments that a woman’s group in Afghanistan credit’s that photograph being on the cover of Time to a huge increase in support of women and more money being donated to fight this very issue on behalf of women in Afghanistan….so you are just as guilty as what you accuse Jodi of.
Secondly, give me break. Go onto any photographers’ website and we all will put scans or copies
of covers we have on magazines as well as articles inside. This is customary and yes, okay she put the Time Magazine Cover on her website. That does not imply that she is complicit, it only means that it was on the cover. And show me any photographer who isn’t proud or grateful for that. Editors don’t call us to get our okay about words they put on a photograph.

Finally, if you ever met Jodi or knew about the rest of her work on behalf of women, especially in South Africa, you would at least have again mentioned this. Her work has long celebrated the TRUE beauty of women and I’m not talking about movie actresses or skinny models……I mean real women, many large hips and breasts and butts. This smells like a witch hunt to me. If you want to go after someone, why not go after the editors at TIME MAGAZINE? All this time and energy spent on
trying to blame a photographer for something she had no control over. Should she have come out publicly and stated that she was outraged by the headline….of course she was outraged but she has chosen not to respond to this witch hunt or dignify it.

To award her the world press photo of the year is also not her doing. It’s the World Press judges and I’m sure there was debate about it because I’ve served on that jury several times and believe me, you leave with battle scars. I’m astonished to some degree at the attacks on Jodi—just because she won’t answer or do what some people think she should do.

I have to say, there are so many other photographers who do work that could also be questioned in terms of putting women into danger or that point out the same things—-and Time could have used any of those pictures as well…is it because Aisha is pretty or what?

It’s one thing to criticize Time Magazine and to criticize the judges but I think Jodi tried to portray Aisha as a victim of a terrible and ancient practice that points to many more horrid things. Is it her fault that Aisha is also a very beautiful woman?

Therewere all kinds of exchanges when that cover came out about the “lighting” etc…..there was no lighting. I asked Jodi. That was available light. And if you see the frames around that one, you’ll see that she just worked the situation in a very natural way. And you can be sure that she offered Time more than one photograph and they would demand it anyway.

Why there is so much talk about her and LESS about Time, about the PRACTICE that tortured Aisha and womens’ issues in the Middle East anyway is nonsensical. How about American foreign policy? I don’t hear anyone yelling about that.

If people want to shoot arrows, shoot them at TIME, shoot them at the World Press Judges and shoot them at American foreign policy. Some people want Jodi to make a public statement apologizing for something over which she has no control (Time doesn’t call photographers and ask them to approve a headline or even how they their pictures are used), they want her to be outraged….how do you know she isn’t? But why should she answer anyone’s accusations when people come out with both barrels blazing???

This smells, like I said, like a witch hunt and I think it stinks. She is a good person, and her work has focussed on women and women’s issuem all her career. I think there’s something else going on here, some personal vendettas or something. I’M OUTRAGED AT THIS POINT by the constant attacks. Get over it. If any person had asked Jodi in a nice and civil way, you might actually have gotten an answer. I certainly cannot speak for her but I know her, she is very good woman and she doesn’t deserve these attacks.
ATTACK TIME, ATTACK THE BRUTAL CUSTOM, ATTACK AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY but let’s not shoot the messenger….and I’m not at all sure how many photographers would have the guts to come out publicly and criticize any magazine.

Believe me, they would be few and far between. This is all hysteria and when the whole Middle East is exploding, this is not what our discussion should be about. Let’s quit vilifying someone and hanging out to dry in public someone who, at least in my opinion, doesn’t deserve it. If you want to criticize the photograph as the choice by judges, go ahead, that’s fair but the hysteria is ridiculous. Be hysterical about the practice, not the person who showed it to us. Believe me, there are photographers who do far worse things.


duckrabbit:
HI Maggie,

I respect you as a photographer but I really don’t think you’re doing Jodi any favors here.

You say that ‘she was absolutely dismayed about the headline’ and yet you see no contradiction between that and putting it on the front page of her website. That to some people would be making the case that to Bieber fame is more important than truth.

Clearly you come from a different media world then mine. But I have to say in all my years of working for the BBC I cannot think of a single documentary producer who would promote their own work if they thought it had been distorted for political end. One that involves bombing and killing people and making lots of profit. I can say the same for the photographers I work with.

What you are telling me is that if the New York Times did the same thing to one of your photos and you were ‘absolutely dismayed’, despite that, if there was enough buzz around the photo you would actively showcase it in the context you hate, as the first thing people see when they go to Maggie Steber’s website?

And if I said to you (hypothetically!!!!) I think you’re the type of person that probably would Maggie, wouldn’t most people rightly take that as an insult? But you’re arguing that infact it’s not an insult because that would be a normal thing for a photographer to do?

Wouldn’t you want to reclaim the photograph from the context in which it has been (ab)used, if not out of respect for your own work, out of respect for the person in the photograph.

You say, ‘If any person had asked Jodi in a nice and civil way, you might actually have gotten an answer. ‘

She was asked on the BBC WORLD SERVICE (a station I produce work for) and responded that “the way you read the photo and headline just depends on where you are coming from”. A slightly different version then the one you are giving us.

She also said,

“Whenever I go out I take responsibility because I know that my work is going to be published. I teach photography as well, and I really try and say to my students that no picture is worth fame or publicity … I try and stick by that.”

I think its one thing to defend a friend but another thing to try and stop debate by throwing in accusations like this is some kind of ‘witchunt’. To me that kind of accusation is the  ‘hysteria’ on view here. If you follow the links below you’ll see just how ill informed a comment it is.  We have consistently supported Jodi as a photographer (up until I visited her website a couple of days ago to find the TIME cover as the image chosen for the homepage)

Lots of people are dieing in Afghanistan. How that story is told and re-told is important. How that story is promoted matters. No?

http://www.duckrabbit.info/2010/06/need-any-persuadeing-that-we-are-not-in-the-age-of-post-photography/

‘Interested in hearing a thoughtful and immensely talented photographer? Then go and see Jodie Bieber talk at Host Gallery in London on June 30th. Should be a cracking event.’

http://www.duckrabbit.info/2010/07/bieber-time-women-afghanistan/

‘Very strong set of portraits from Jodi Bieber on Time.com. Very dignified and respectful. Shocking in parts. Enlightening in others.’

http://www.duckrabbit.info/2010/07/photography-and-dirty-propaganda/

‘I feel sorry for Bieber, she’s done a great job and cannot be faulted, but I feel this photo has been misused. Just as guns did not solve the problems of racism in South Africa, they will not solve the problems of woman’s rights in Afghanistan.’

MAGGIE STEBER

Let me try this again:

First of all, I am publicly apologizing to Benjamin for my use and unclear choice of words in my rant yesterday.

Let me clarify….when I used the word YOU in my rant……it was NOT aimed at Benjamin. Benjamin has, through duckrabbit, created a venue for us to have these exchanges and discussions and he is not the target of my criticism.
I have apologized to him in private emails and I do so here again. I am grateful for his hard work in maintaining this site so we might have these dialogues. Ben has remained neutral throughout the discussion…at least until his response to my initial posting, which is understandable.

Again, Ben, not about you but yes, in reaction to some others. I also want to make it clear that I am not trying to throw cold water on the discussion, the debate, or anyone’s right to free speech, including my own. I just feel like it is a conversation that is going in circles without anything being accomplished, anything significant. It’s like
preaching to the choir and I don’t see beyond the discussion among photographers, what is accomplished. But I suppose the conversation has to get going before anyone would take any real action beyond commenting.

Beyond that, briefly, there has been much discussion in some circles since the Time Magazine cover came out.
Whether she makes a public statement or stand about Time’s use of her photograph is Jodi’s personal and private choice.

We cannot know the full backstory and that is the one main point I really wanted to make….that I have learned there
are many sides to a story and that without knowing them all, one cannot comment without risking unwarranted criticism.

And there has been abundant criticism and speculation.

I wish that the people who are the most outraged would use that energy and time to WRITE DIRECTLY to the editors of Time Magazine. I think this is putting your money where your mouth is and that the kind of debate stirred by the headline should be addressed directly to the editors. My strong reaction yesterday is mainly due to that…..if people feel so strongly, start a movement and take up the cause, whatever you feel that is.

Thank you and thank you, Ben, for posting this comment.

Maggie Steber

Author — duckrabbit

duckrabbit is a production company formed by radio producer/journalist Benjamin Chesterton and photographer David White. We specialize in digital storytelling.

Discussion (16 Comments)

  1. Tom White says:

    It’s not a witch hunt, and no one is disputing the talent of Jodi Bieber or the power of her photography – this one image included. But I have to agree that having the tear sheet of the Time cover on the front page of your website raises a few eyebrows in light of the controversy regarding the headline. This is especially confusing if Jodi’s private position is that she is ‘dismayed’ at the way the photograph was used.

    If I were Jodi I would put the image on my website in the context of the (powerful and important) story in which it was originally shot, and not include the cover with the text that so dismayed me.

    My original take on this can be read here – http://photographylot.blogspot.com/2010/07/aisha-and-time.html – and I stand by my claim that I think Jodi’s work in that issue had nothing to do with the words on the cover. However, there has been ample opportunity for this to be discussed and on the whole, it is only occuring on blogs such as this and not in the mainstream media. I think the duckrabbit blog should be applauded for saying what a lot of people are thinking, and a regular read will show that good work is always supported, but that doesn’t grant immunity from a call for accountability. I would expect to be held to account by my community for my actions if I put my work in the public eye

    I once illustrated a story in which I disagreed with almost everything the writer had stated, and was compelled to write to everyone in the town I had photographed to apologise for the way I believe they had been misrepresented. If this had been a Time cover instead of being buried in a newspaper section I would like to think I would have been compelled to be a little more public in my criticism. I would like to think that if this was a story of such importance that I had shot and cared so much about I would be shouting from the ramparts at the way my work had been twisted so, whether it was by Time or the local gazette. As far as I can tell, we – who do not know Jodi personally – do not know if she had a conversation with Aisha, or the Time editors about this or not and it is her prerogative to keep those conversations private, but her public position is not clear and having that cover on her website certainly raises questions as to that position.

    After reading this Interview with Jodi Bieber: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-10915543 I agreed with her right up to the final crucial question – when asked how she felt about TIME effectively turning her photo into a propaganda statement. She claims that she has no political agenda. That I cannot believe. I think perhaps she means that she would prefer to keep her political agenda private. She also says that however you read the photo is dependent on your own point of view. That is true up to a point, but when a photo is married with such a statement as it is here, one which effectively negates alternative readings then I would say that it’s use is not as ambiguous as all that.

    What we do know is that this photograph has done a lot of good for the issue it actually represents, so why don’t we – and by that I mean all of us, Jodi included – put it in that context at every opportunity?

  2. Lisa Hogben says:

    Ok I don’t know whether I should weigh in here or not. I know you Ben to be a caring and passionate advocate for human rights and veracity within the media. I don’t know Maggie Steber except by reputation and I don’t know Jodi Bieber but I have followed her work closely.

    Firstly I want to say that I also have worked for TIME and as a photographer you don’t get any say in the story process or in the captioning of images. It is needless to point that fact out again.

    On the point of apologising for a photograph that someone else used with a crap header (read what I have to say on ‘And Pigs Will Fly’ at my blog) then I would say that its pretty difficult to apologise for something that you have no control over. Perhaps what you are asking Ben is for Bieber to protest loudly ‘Mea Culpa-The American Stance On Afghanistan Is All Jodi Biebers Fault!’

    Now that is bloody ridiculous as you well know and certainly it appears that Biebers statement about reading the photo is a particularly wimpy remark, but I can actually relate to her wanting to use the photo on her website.

    How many photos of women ever get chosen for the front cover of TIME? In fact how many women photographers get their work shown on the front covers of TIME? For good or for ill this also becomes part of the debate. The shot is about the treatment of women, any woman, in any country- no woman deserves that to happen to them. Maggie Steber is a woman defending another woman because we are all sick of the patronising and patriarchal world viewpoint that allows a woman to be maimed either in this way or much more subtly by the denigration of something that is important to them. In this case this is a photo of something that should never have happened and if I was Jodi Bieber I would be justifiably proud of getting through all of those barriers and getting this shot on the cover of TIME.

    This is not a war mongering image… in fact its the opposite to that… and it is on the cover of one of the hugely influential news magazines that still exists. I concede that the header distorts the meaning of the image as it is seen by the masses, but then everyone does have the ability to make their own choice don’t they?

    So this time Ben I don’t agree with you, I don’t believe that Jodi Bieber owes anything to anyone except Aisha and the women who have suffered the same fate. Lets not forget Aisha OK… In which case Jodi Bieber has done what very few of us get a chance to do and thats to show the world what some women suffer. In this you cannot fault her.

    Read my comment under ‘Job’. They are the people who should be apologising.

    • duckrabbit says:

      Hi Lisa,

      Thanks for this. The respect is mutual but I think you misrepresent what has actually be written. If you follow the links you will see that I actually agree with much of what Maggie has written, but the question here is wether there is some kind of hystercial witchunt,

      Please read again and consider did I ever suggest that Bieber should ‘apologize’?

      Did I ever say that she should protest ‘loudly’?

      Did I ever question the importance of the actual photograph?

      Did I ever say that is is a ‘war mongering image’?

      I think you are disagreeing with things that I have never said. Is that fair in a debate far more important than ourselves as individuals. The question here is, is there a hysterical witchunt going on? That’s something I refute.

  3. i have the utmost respect for both Maggie (whom i know personally) and for you, Ben…your efforts to redress many inequities and hypocrisies in our industry are enormously commendable, but on this one, i think you’ve been unfair towards Bieber (whom i don’t know) and to Maggie. i agree with most of Maggie’s comments, and (to keep it short since the above comment says it all) in my opinion, it’s the TIME editors who have deliberately exploited/used/misused her photograph to convey a political agenda, or to arouse sensationalism with the photograph’s accompanying title…Bieber is not at fault there at all.

    you may have seen a recent post of mine about the World Press Photo results in which i prefer Altaf Qadri’s photograph of a funeral in Kashmir over Bieber’s…not because her was not a good photograph, but just because it was spoiled/spoilt by appearing on the cover of TIME with the “crap” header.

    you and i have shared stuff where photo editors, judges, etc were the culprits…i think this is one of them.

    • duckrabbit says:

      Hi Tewfic,

      thanks for your comment.

      I too agree with many of the things that Maggie says, as you will see if you follow the links. But please can you tell me how you feel I have been ‘unfair’?

      How is questioning the use of the image a hysterical witchhunt? Isn’t it important we debate these things?

  4. Ben,

    perhaps “hysterical witch-hunt” is an out of place rhetorical flourish…and yes, it’s very important that you, i and a host of others debate issues such as this one. as i said, i don’t know Bieber (nor did i know her work before Aisha…btw, Bibi is a title as in Ms., not a surname) nor can i ever know her true feelings on this issuse…and none of us will know for sure. if you recall the debate we’ve had regarding Bruce’s photo essay on the Kurdish young woman, i (and you, if i recall correctly) placed much of the blame on the editors of the WashPo…i think this is a similar situation, where Bieber had no say whatsoever in the positioning of her photograph…now, of course she could raise a stink about the “crap” header after the fact, but that would hurt her future publishing chances with the photo editors “oligarchy”.

    so my position is this: let’s debate the (mis)use of Aisha’s image by the TIME editors, and try to shame them. will they learn? i don’t think so…because “crap” headers sell magazines. Sad, isn’t it…but a fact.

    • duckrabbit says:

      Thanks for your response Tewfic. There is no disagreement.

      Hand on heart I can tell you I was sitting down to write a post on how wonderful it was that the image of Aisha had been reclaimed by Jodi winning the World Press. It was finding the Time cover on Jodi’s homepage that prompted me to write something different.

      People have different values. I certainly haven’t written that Jodi should ‘raise a stink’. But nothing in her actions leads me, or anyone else who does not know her, to believe anything else but that she supports the use of the image by TIME.

      What value are we to place in the work of photographers if we are suggesting that if their work is abused they shouldn’t feel they can state their own position, even in a subtle way?

      I am of the opinion that is Jodi had taken some distance from the cover she would have enhanced her reputation.

      As things are we are left with an industry living in fear, whose journalistic value is dust.

  5. Lisa Hogben says:

    Hi there Ben, I am sorry if you felt I misrepresented what you said in my comment. If we go word for word indeed you probably never used the term ‘apologise’ it was an inference that I read into the remarks of Maggie Steber, who clearly said ‘ Some people want Jodi to make a public statement apologising for something over which she has no control’ My bad. Or my bad expression as I did not mean to communicate that you were the person demanding an apology.

    As for the protesting loudly…well I have read quite a bit on this and really it does seem to be Jodi Bieber has been caught up in one of those ‘Burn The Witch’ moments that the internet is famous for… You happen to be a reasonable and professional journo so therefore I assumed that we can have a fairly decent debate minus the invective about this issue. I wrote that sentence as a way of illustrating how over the top it is for anyone to expect a photographer to ‘apologise’ for taking a photograph.

    I never implied or stated that it was my opinion you didn’t take the photograph seriously and the ‘war-mongering’ was my statement and did not include you in its premise as a statement at all.

    What I thought I did say was I understood why Jodi Bieber put the offending cover on her website. That it ran as a cover at all was debated within the ranks of the editors apparently, I clearly remember reading that they weren’t sure to go with the full horror of it… Someone even mentioned that kids might be upset if they saw it…

    So getting it out there was pretty huge in the first place. And as a photographer I have to say when you are heavily invested in the story getting it onto the front cover of anything is huge. You want it to be seen because its important to you and the people in the story.

    So its out there and while the attached and ill thought out crap header may fool Joe Average on the street into believing the Americans must remain in Afghanistan to protect the Aisha’s of this world, why is that all Jodi Bieber’s responsibility? Why are we not asking the sub that put that stupid phrase together whether he or she stands by their work?

    The real debate here, or I believe what you are trying to get at judging from your last remark, is that we need to be more accountable on a personal level for how our imagery is used. And by Jodi Bieber putting the masthead on her website she is subtly supporting TIME and its opinions rather than withdrawing from the so-called ‘propaganda’ it espouses.

    Ben I know John Pilger is doing a talk in Adelaide in April about the entrenched use of ‘propaganda’ by the corporate media. Its nothing new. But calling out Jodi Bieber I think is too harsh. Lets go after the real culprits in this situation which would be the publishers and their particular political positions…

  6. Steber’s comments are are directed at commentators, but, for me, they raised a question about photographers: Where are the Philip Jones Griffiths of Iraq and Afghanistan? Where is the “Vietnam, Inc.” of these wars? (No, not Hetherington or Gilbertson. Their work cannot be more different.)

    I acknowledge that by the time Griffiths’ book was published the American war had generated widespread revulsion and a powerful anti-war movement. There’s no equivalent, now, in the US or UK. But Griffiths’ sense of moral outrage and the photos that expressed it were made earlier.

    So I wonder… Where are the photographers who, like Griffiths did 40 years ago, will shoot arrows (to quote Steber) at the likes of Time and US foreign policy?

  7. Sojournposse says:

    I disagree about the witch-hunt accusation. This is a healthy media criticism and nothing for Bieber to lose sleep about. It is plain as daylight that Aisha’s image had been used in a questionable context, ie. with heavy propaganda slant by TIME.

    It’s not Bieber’s responsibility it came out like that. However it is our responsibility as critics to address questions.

    And Bieber got a World Press Award for that image. It’s legit and well done to her. In some countries, like Uzbekistan, you got thrown to prison for taking photos of villagers. I was there to report about it. So I am against the habit of not accepting intelligent criticisms. The beauty of democracy is you can voice your thoughts without fear of reprimand.

    I am a woman myself, and of SE Asian origin. I am proud and fortunate member of the UK press, enjoying my career under the freedom of speech. I think the oppression that happens in Afghanistan is deplorable and need to be exposed at all cost. But not as strategic instrument to justify war and re-enforcing Orientalism stereotype.

    For many (oppressed) Asian females, it bad enough they have to fight their own culture to have a voice. They also have to contend with ‘colonial hubris’ trying to write their history for them, putting them further into the ‘exotic box’ they try to escape from. And worse, their suffering is yet another career-making platform for photojournalists – that fail to create real change.

    I think what Ben wrote has been fair and captured the sentiments of the critics. He didn’t make things up or creating hysteria. Just read other articles written others around the WPP, we are questioning the same thing.

    Well done (and thank god) for unpretentious debate platform like duckrabbit.

    Ben is also right about the BBC reporting standard. They are thorough. This week I was interviewed by BBC World Service Uzbek & Central Asia about press freedom there (non-existent), my photojournalism experience (scary) and stereotype of Asian female in the Western press. We had meetings and lengthy chats before going ahead. The producer, Rustam Qobil, asked me, “Do you think Asians are too sensitive about outsiders criticisms?”. We discussed all pros-cons of our own stands before pushing the boat out.

    My point is, as editors we run through everything before going ahead. Very rare we dive head first into an issue. We think hard and talk about it first.

    So when things are published out there – chances are, whoever is involved know what they are doing.

    I applaud John Mason’s question, “Where are the photographers who, like Griffiths did 40 years ago, will shoot arrows (to quote Steber) at the likes of Time and US foreign policy?”.

    ZH, creative director, Sojournposse.

  8. Lisa Hogben says:

    …so you see, whether its a ‘witch-hunt’ or not we can at least put our valid points of view on duckrabbit without ‘hysteria’…

    This is a very important conversation to have though and I applaud Ben for sticking his neck out on it. Though if you pillory one photojournalist, then we all must line up for punishment as we still (and I presume that means the BBC too) take the corporate dollar in producing work for the corporate media.

    But John Edwin Mason, who without doubt is one of the wisest amongst us, nails it entirely…

    Apart from you Ben and John Pilger, where are the dissenting voices that will dare self critique the industry for its standards?

    • duckrabbit says:

      Hi Lisa,

      thanks for this.

      By the way I’m proud to work for the BBC. Its by no means a perfect organization but in twelve years no editor has ever forced a single change on any programme I have made. Its certainly a corporation but is funded by the public.

      And yes I agree John has a major point. When you boil Steber’s comment down it paints a really depressing image of the industry.

  9. Tom White says:

    This is a fantastic debate to have about the practice of journalism, and should exist alongside (not instead of) the debate surrounding the content of the photography. I think everyone is actually in agreement that the portrait is a great photograph and part of an important story that needs to be told. I think everyone is in agreement that we (the media) need to be careful about how we present our work (journalism) and that it is important to work hard to get our statements, facts and context straight and that we should call to account anything that falls short of the highest standards. Most people I have met working in the documentary/journalism field (photographers, writers, film makers, radio journalists, and yes, editors too) have been individuals who ultimately are trying to make the world a better, safer, smarter, happier and more peaceful place. I think discussing how we go about doing this is healthy as it forces us all to put in that extra effort to live up to the ideal we strive to attain.

    • Tom White says:

      Oh, and I think Maggie is absolutely correct when she says that:

      “I wish that the people who are the most outraged would use that energy and time to WRITE DIRECTLY to the editors of Time Magazine. I think this is putting your money where your mouth is and that the kind of debate stirred by the headline should be addressed directly to the editors. My strong reaction yesterday is mainly due to that…..if people feel so strongly, start a movement and take up the cause, whatever you feel that is.”

      We who write on blogs often think it is enough to voice our opinion in these forums – the echo box of the internet as some would call it – without taking those arguments directly to those who we are commenting on.

  10. Rob Godden says:

    Fascinating debate, one of the reasons I come to Duckrabbit. However, the debate has been too driven by ‘industry arguments’ (control of a photographer over her image / responsibility for how it was used, and the role of an elite photo competition) for my liking. Not that these aren’t important and I am grateful for such an informed set of comments. Just that there has been little here that looks to investigate what the actual impact of the image (particularly in the context of its publication in Time magazine) had on those who saw it? Again, we come to this place where there is much discussion about what we perceive the impact to be and actually the reality. I also see no comments from those in the media in Afghanistan or informed photographers from the region, such as at Drik (though it is good that Maggie noted some feedback from women’s organisations in Afghanistan regarding increased funding). Evaluation is something those of us working in social activism (and I include some photographers in that category) are surprisingly reluctant to indulge in. Is it that we are not really interested in what people actually thought of this image when featured in Time (or lack the resources / time to find out) or feel secure in our assumptions of what ‘joe public’ think? There was also a surprising lack of debate about the connection between violence against women in Afghanistan and the US-led invasion – a connection that is made by Time, and surely should be the heart of the debate? This is particularly important when we go to look beyond Bieber’s photo and see how Afghanistan is presented to us in images – compared with say Nepal that has almost equally high rates of maternal mortality, domestic violence etc. but is pictured very differently. And as the debate went on it got further and further away from what was important – the challenges of intense focus (on one individual) to tell a wider story that is very complex. I have worked for ten years with people who have had their human rights abused, interviewing the survivor, their family, others in the community, police etc. Obviously there are many view points but more interestingly is how stories evolve, moulded by memory and what we choose to include or delete as circumstances dictate or allow. One image and one headline to encompass a war and women, should we be surprised it kicked up dust?

  11. Stan B. says:

    Ms. Bieber could have done everyone a service simply by making her position clear on her website next to that award winning image/cover. Without providing any kind of statement or explanation, it serves merely as a personal promo (and indirect endorsement). TIME should be taken to task for its improper usage of said image, and although Ms. Beiber clearly had no control on how it ultimately would be used- she is most certainly now able to speak up for herself, her image, and maybe even to a certain extent, for the subject in whatever limited way she can. If she has, and I’m not aware of it- great! If she hasn’t, one must then ponder how much this is a decision based strictly on financial/career considerations…

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