Christopher Morris, ‘Shut up, stop thinking for yourself and kneel before the almighty war photographer’s pictures’. Rafiqui., ‘Err, maybe not tonight Chris’.

The VII photographer Christopher Morris has responded to my post ‘The War Photographers biggest story: themselves‘, which I published a few days ago, and which seems to have hit a nerve.

I’m posting his comment in full below as well as a response from Asim Rafiqui, who recieved The Aftermath grant in 2009. Its worth pointing out that its simply not true that duckrabbit criticized the media for printing stories about Tim Hetherington or Chris Hondros.

Year after year, decade after decade photographers have documented war. Rarely are they in the news, rarely do they become the story. For a generation now they have provided a glimpse into humankind at it’s worse. They have done so at great personal sacrifice, they have set out to do this work for a multitude of personal reasons.

Armchair photojournalists can sit back and criticize the motives, they can find many faults with the industry, that on rare occasion, speak about men and women who risk everything to document history.

This is not sports photography, nor fashion photography, not your average form of photojournalism. This is photography that requires the photographer to face the fact that when he leaves for his assignment, there is the chance that the will not come home. With the added stress of knowing that he may be maimed for life.

How many of you do that when you pack your camera bags to go off to work?

I say leave them alone. If someone wants to do a story on them, if someone wants to write a book or make a movie about them. Then so bit it.

Talk to Jaoa Silva, laid up in a hospital. Talk to him about sacrifice. Criticize him with your pompous accusations. Criticize the media that wrote stories about Hetheringon and Chris. You think that is fair, you do the real injustice to them. They bled to death in some foreign shit hole. Doing what they loved. Leave them alone. Admire their pictures and their courage. Stop judging them and the ones that want to write about them.

Do you think the photographers that put themselves out there on the extreme edge of society do it so they can get a write up in the media about themselves? For this… all of you are totally wrong.

Asim Rafiqui, who was the recipient of The Aftermath grant in 2009 (please note the first version of this text was not meant for publication, this is an amended version) :

What is perhaps most difficult to keep apart whenever such a discussion comes up is the person from the issue. too often people will attempt to shut up discussion and criticism by offering individuals as examples, as if somehow any one photojournalist’s experience or career can stand for, or represent the various institutions,personal and professional motivations and other factors that define the field of photojournalism and journalism. The use of such ‘martyrs’ as a way to shut up dissent or criticism is of course a classic strategy, used not just by those writing comments here, but even by major governments around the world. This is the great willy horton strategy used by George Bush to silence his opponents, to grab the higher moral ground, to sow the seeds of fear while exploiting the not-so-below-the-surface prejudice against the other. And hence it seems that even here, as we attempt to understand the senseless risks that photographers and journalists often choose to and others times feel compelled by pressures personal and professional to confront, and the meaning and value of the outcomes, there are those who insist that we cannot do so.

There is something ironic, if not hypocritical, about a self proclaimed journalist asking others not to criticize, not to examine, not to question and not to investigate. our proclaimed ethics do not seem to apply to us.

Some of our esteemed colleagues want us seems to want us to wallow in the foundational myths of photojournalism and just not ask any questions. A photojournalist asks that we not turn the critical eye and mind to ourselves. This is not a tenable situation, and certainly not one that even our journalist colleagues would advocate. They want things to be as they are. They want us to, despite all the evidence to the contrary, continue to accept the myth that war photographers are individual moral crusaders out to act as witnesses to man’s inhumanity to man. Yes, that they are a group of veritable Mother Theresas with zoom lenses, the moral conscience of our modernity, who selflessly step out there into the danger zone bringing back for us documents of history. This is good enough because some people parley this myth for various reasons. They do not want us to ask the hard questions that may reveal something to us about the futility and pointlessness of war zone work, the sheer propaganda that is the outcome of embedded photography, the simplistic, near voyeuristic focus of their obsession with violence, blood and the spectacle of the murder, the staggering silence that such photographers offers about the ‘other’, their general indifference to the real implications and the real victims of the war, the strong relationship war photography has with the economics of newspaper sales, the well documented and discussed fact that war is addictive for no other reason that it gives our work attention and the attention is addictive.

Hundreds of journalists have died in America’s wars alone. We as Americans have a special responsibility to ask the questions. As the two reuters cameramen (and many civilians) were gunned down in cold blood by american military helicopter pilots we were moved to ask not just about the hideousness of that act, but also about the role of the photographer and the risks involved. But it seems that the recent death of Hondros and Hetherington are being used as an excuse to not only beatify them as saints, but to also silence any attempt to challenge the presumptions, motivation, exploitation and intent of what they thought they must do while working as war reporters. So we are now told that we must not ask any questions. We must only sit back and let paeans to ‘martyrs’ remain paeans to ‘martyrs’. This is especially biting when it comes from an esteemed photojournalist colleague who is arguing that an industry and the practice of its practitioners not be challenged or questioned, that this is not our job. A journalist asks that there be no self criticism, self examination, or debate.  He asks for acquiescence, for mindless repetition and acceptance of the works and intent of those in the power to say so.  He asks for nothing to change. That we only bow in front of the empty platitudes.

It is a sign of our craft that very few reflective works have been written that expose the myths of war reporting, and the motivations of those who pursue it. There are some works that in fact tear apart the silly mythology that war reporters are simply messianic figures placing themselves at the cross of history to save our souls. Chris Hedges’, no armchair reporters, War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning or even the disturbing A Loyd’s My War Gone By, I Miss It So and brilliant explorations of the many human motivations that go to inform the drive and needs of war reporters. kagan’s shutterbabe: adventures in love and war also touched on some troubling questions in this regard. but perhaps most importantly, these books reminded us that men and women are moved to action, and to addiction, to report war for reasons that are far from noble, moral and self sacrificial. Perhaps there are some who are such elevated individuals, but that even within them we would be wrong to erase human needs and desire for attention, success, greed, mimicry, or a simple desperate need to be ‘where the action is’ simply in the hope that it will make their work relevant. We as reporters are at times some of these things, at times all of these things, and at times none of them.

I can’t accept that, for if we are not willing to open a discussion about the methods and meaning of this craft now as so many of our colleagues lie in cemeteries and hospitals, then when should we open a debate about it? We are being told that we should not challenge, we should not question. they want us to be a peanut gallery of mindless morons clapping away to the foolish interpretations and representations of what passes for the job of the war photographer. His arguments are simply hysteria and emotional blackmail, exploiting the conditions of his friends who may be lying in hospitals from injuries, as a means to curtail a discussion of whether it was a ‘sacrifice’ or professional and irresponsibility that got him there.

There are many individual experiences of war reportage, and even if we grant the messianic impulses of some individuals, including perhaps this critic, we will still have to discuss the rest of us mere mortals and our place in this craft and how we can produce works that are something more than voyeurism and sensationalism. that is, how can we produce reportage that informs, educates, and elevates itself to a genuine understanding of the many political, social, human and historical forces that go to make something we can call history.

We have a right to question because we are in the field and many are wondering what the hell we are doing there and at what risk. The strongest questions are coming not from armchair journalists, but actually working ones. And often these questions come in the form of walking away from conflict photography itself once its futility and its meaninglessness becomes apparent. There are many who have walked away, and I would argue, many more who have walked away at the realization of the futility and foolishness of it. And others who have walked away because they have realized that the frontline is the wrong place to tell the stories of a war, and the real documentation of it that can later be called history. Many have walked away to create war reportage from new and more insightful vantage points. That the heat of battle is not necessarily the best reporting place. This is something which greats like Philip Jones Griffith and Don Mccullin realized as well. We need to provoke a meaningful discussion and not indulge in diatribes meant to shut us up. Of course all this has been lost in the recent celebrations of war photography, and the continued depiction of the war reporter as hero. this myth creation was examined well in works such as Knightley’s The First Casualty; The War Correspondent As Hero And Myth-Maker From The Crimea To Kosovo. the latter work also reveals the myriad of commercial, corporate, profiteering and propagandist forces that inform the motivations of so many, and of so much that passes for war reportage and photography.

All this of course we cannot discuss as photojournalists. we must remain quiet.

clap. clap.

This debate started with a criticism of a new grant. It veered as if often the case these days of any criticism of anything to do with photojournalism, towards the defense of the personal and the individual. We have to go back to the original intent. I think that the founders of the Aftermath grant have attempted to engage in the discussion and not simply scream that we should shut up. It is from such an attitude that we can hope to grow as practitioners and as an industry. One of the strengths of the Aftermath grant was that it attempted to create a new dialogue on war reportage and has been determined to pusue that argument. Iwrite this in a rush, so all gaps of logic and argument are mine and I accept that.  But I just wanted to say that asking us to not question is absolutely the wrong response, and the most irresponsible one.

I will end by simply pointing out that my greatest regret is that no editors ever participate in these dialogues. They remain the gatekeepers of the craft and yet remain so distant, so silent. As photojournalists we produce work for them, and are frequently driven to produce work that we believe they want from us, and yet there are absent here. Oh well.

Author — duckrabbit

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

Discussion (35 Comments)

  1. Ha! HA! Ha! I love this one. Poor Christopher, have his brain rest in peace…

  2. Tom White says:

    Going to a war zone with a camera does not give you instant credibility as a photographer, (or it should not anyway). I take nothing away from those who put their lives on the line to bring the news to the rest of us. Someone needs to do it, and those that do it with skill and integrity have my utmost respect. I do object to the idea that doing this puts you in some sort of untouchable position of authority. This attitude just gives impressionable photographers the (wrong) idea that you are not a proper photojournalist unless you’ve been shot at. This is just dead wrong. War photography is important, yes, but it is not the only type of journalism that matters and my worry is that too many people see it as somehow carrying more weight. Am I any less of a photographer because I choose not to put myself on the frontline of a war, because I actually want to live to see my kids grow up? Maybe I am. Maybe that makes me a coward. Or maybe not. Maybe I’m just not afraid to say that I don’t want to bleed to death in some shithole. I think that’s a tragic way to go and when I hear of those who that has happened to it brings me great sadness. I understand the difficulties – the sacrifice if you like – of photographers who go to cover war, and I will say that as long as war happens, it needs to be reported on, but to romanticise this aspect of the profession, to put it beyond reproach, is just plain dangerous. Yes you risk your life to do your job, but so do so many other people, and in more mundane situations than war. And while that is a risk you are willing take, it is not a risk that affords you automatic respect. It is the work you do that will get you my respect, not the position you put yourself in to do that work. And by the way, can I just finish by saying that I am in fact an admirer of much of Christopher Morris’ work, and I’d like to point out that in my humble opinion, I think his best work was done not in a war zone, but while following President Bush for TIME, published in the book My America. That body of work is remarkable, and though undertaken far from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, tells us as much about those wars as any photographs of soldiers in a desert.

  3. Christine says:

    “Foreign shithole”? Now that really smacks of respect, doesn’t it?

  4. Jamie Smtih says:

    Three points:

    1. A distinction needs to be made between the motivations of the war photographer and the value of the work they are doing. It may well be that many are motivated by vanity or addicted to the intensity of the experience. This may cause them, on occasion, to act against their better judgment or exaggerate the social value of their work. But it may not. And people’s motivations are usually a bit more complex than can be summed up in a paragraph or two. We armchair photojournalists should stick to criticism the work rather than the photographers. The idea that we should dismiss work achieved through expressions of vanity is as mistaken as the imperative to value work on the basis of the heroism that produced it.

    2. I agree that we should be mindful of the seduction of war photography. The tendency in colleges to give it excessive prominence in the curriculum, the prevalence of the idea that it provides the sternest test of ability, the familiar, apologetic tone adopted by photographers of social issues when discussing their work after a presentation by a war photographer; these are all things that demonstrate the hegemony of the values of conflict photography over those of photojournalism as a whole. They should be resisted, as a lot more than war goes on in the world, but not through expressions of resentment towards war photographers.

    3. There is a systemic problem, obviously not a new one, that the intensity of working in a conflict zone combined with the desire for dramatic shots often leads to superficial representations of a war. We see amongst photographers what Asim Rafiqui calls “the simplistic, near voyeuristic focus of their obsession with violence”. Whilst I agree that this is something war photographers should be called up on, you need to accept there is a limit to what you can convey through still images in the mass media. I’m not sure where the work that achieves Asim’s standards would be published and be viewed by a large audience. Perhaps the choice is between superficial coverage of a war or little coverage of a war.

    In general, I don’t think we should give conflict photographers a hard time about failings beyond their control. But, to mangle Beckett, they should certainly be urged to fail better.

    • duckrabbit says:

      Thanks for your great comment. In response to your points:


      I should point neither myself, nor Asim, nor many of the people commenting are ‘armchair journalists’. It was a lazy way by Chris of dismissing people who raise legitimate questions, just one step removed from the ‘who are you anyway’ response.

      In journalism I think its dangerous to entirely separate the creator of the work from the work itself. Both should be critical targets when one aspect bleeds into another.

      Did anyone dismiss work merely because it was created through vanity? I maybe wrong but I don’t think so. I agree with you that’s not a reason to dismiss work.

      2: Again the original post was not about resentment towards war photographers (I work with one), it is about why their work seems less relevant, less important to audiences and editors than their personal stories?

      3: Having worked for the BBC for many years I don’t accept the choice is between superficial or little coverage of war. The stories can and should be better and there is no reason, given the digital age and the need for content that they would not be published.

      The disservice we’ve done in celebrating the war photography industry so much is that there has been no compulsion to look differently, to ask different questions. That said just because the compulsion has not been there doesn’t mean people aren’t taking different approaches. Ashley Gilbertson’s work on the bedrooms of the fallen is an example. That was part funded by the NTY (or New Yorker). Why does it feel so fresh?

      Thanks again for your thoughtful comment.

  5. Stan B. says:

    Thanks for having, and continuing this discussion with its many, many various shades of grey. I have the greatest respect for the vast majority of conflict photographers who no doubt risk their lives to inform us of what we do well to avoid. The one line that resonated most with me when I read The Bang Bang Club was when an ANC comrade told Greg Marinovich that he was glad that one of them died- so that they (the photographers) could finally feel what they (those most directly involved) had long felt. It was not said with malice, merely from the point of experience.

  6. tulio says:

    Great comment(s)… clap clap !!

  7. Photographers, cameramen, reporters have their own motivations to cover wars.
    Some people believe or want to believe that it’s a social duty and with their images could, or at least try, to make a difference, some just pretend that they care to justify what they do, some want adventure, some just enjoy this job, others try to be the best or get the strongest images. There are so many motivations: the duty or the pleasure to document history, the ego to say I was there, the satisfaction to go through a personal challenge, win awards, escape from boring home towns or societies were its feels like you don’t want to be part of, adrenaline, others they just keep doing this because they don’t have anything else … Each person knows its own motivations. But guess what? I don’t care.

    I only care if the work published or broadcasted by magazines, webs or TV stations is good. I only care if the person behind the viewfinder respect the people in front of the camera and respect the colleges and the profession. And I get a little worried when the journalist, the cameraman, the photographer becomes more important than the story. I don’t like when I just keep seeing reports of journos explaining how difficult, dangerous was to cover the story. I think that is not bad time to time to see a story about war reporters. It’s not bad to get some credit, some recognition. I remember when I was a kid dreaming to be a journalist on the field and looking documentaries about photographers, cameramen and thinking.. hey I want to do this job. But now I feel embarrassed when mostly of the western media tells too much the stories about the brave and traumatized journos that go to cover wars. First of all this is not an interesting story to tell constantly like it’s happening now. I want to know what happen and not how difficult and dangerous is for the reporter to cover the story. Second I think it’s a lack of respect for the local journalist, fixers, drivers as usually they cannot leave the country, take more and constant risk, suffer usually more repression and persecution, get less money and without them mostly of the time we could not do what we do.

    We are not rock stars, despite lots of people in our profession behave like if they were. If some people like to feel like a rock star good for them if that’s what make them feel happier. But I am just worried that mainstream media, for different reasons, its focusing too much the attention in journalist that maybe were dreaming on being a rock star. Already our business it is in really general bad shape to make it worst. I don’t want to see the pages of magazines, minutes of TV, websites wasted… I just want to see good images and good stories.

  8. Ben Cutler says:

    There is some confusion about whether the criticism is related to their work or the tendency to become the story and even focus on themselves and promoting their careers (or sensationalizing the profession). I have great respect for all types of journalists and they serve an important function in society. While it is an honorable profession that helps bring attention to serious issues, this blog does have some valid points about the switch from capturing the story to becoming the story.

    Take a look at the b&w slideshow that is part of this article.

    With no disrespect to anyone who participated in this odd slideshow, it would be interesting if someone who did participate would express their motivation for being involved in something like this right after Hetherington and Hondros were killed. Mr. Morris would probably agree that this article (and especially the slideshow) are not really about Hetherington or Hondros. Maybe it was just inevitable after all the news coverage of their deaths that photojournalists would receive more attention. Again, I have the highest respect for photojournalists and assume the majority who are working on international issues are very professional and more interested in the important work they are doing than focusing on themselves. And I wish them all the luck in continuing that work and staying safe.

  9. Christopher Anderson says:

    “Sparks may fly!” That’s what your really selling, isn’t it? Controversy. You must be scoring big with this one. Glad the tragedy of colleagues could be of service.
    You see, there is perhaps a worthwhile discussion to be had. One that I imagine Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington would welcome and even engage in. But this here isn’t it. You just start arguments. You’re just whipping the mob into a frenzy and passing out the pitchforks and torches. You create a train wreck so you can attract as many gawkers as possible to come see the carnage. You decry sensationalism by sensationalizing. (in this thread you particularly mischaracterize and sensationalize both what Chris Morris said and even Rafiqi’s response to it.)
    The now-infamous appearance by Jon Stewart on CNN’s Crossfire comes to mind. The two hosts of the show stood in self-righteous indignation at the suggestion that what they do not contribute to the greater good by seriously debating the issues. But all they really do is add to the deafening noise that divides people into camps.

    To be fair to the other posters, I really haven’t even read much of what has been posted. I imagine some very salient points have been made on both sides of the argument. You (duckrabbit guy) probably got in lots of good zingers. But it is a shouting match I have zero interest in. Just gives me a headache.
    Your faux outrage that no one is paying attention to the dead children because some photographer got groped is stomach turning. It is a straw-man argument designed to strike easy emotional chords in order to maximize the controversy and grow your audience. You trade in opportunism cloaked in self righteous, moral indignation and pass it off as intellectual debate.

    So, I am sure you will answer back with a smart aleck red harring that I am waving my credentials at you (I am not) and that I am trying to squelch debate (again, I am not and nor was Chris Morris). And that’s fine. But it won’t change the fact that you’re just an opportunist trying to generate controversy for self gain… and using a tragic event and the very natural public interest in it for that self gain.
    I have no problem with the debate itself, I just find the bad faith in which it is conducted here to be a little hard to swallow.

  10. Interesting how that happened…… Duckrabbit the Fox news of photography blogs.

    (please note the first version of this text was not meant for publication, this is an amended version) :

    The original was written so much better… Why was it not meant for publication. Mr. Rafiqui hit sent by mistake?

    Also here from the New York Times, trying to glamorize another War Photographer.

    • duckrabbit says:

      Hi Christopher,

      Please, by your logic if you edit a photo to make it look better that make you a paparazzi?

      As for Asim, he sent me his first comments as a personal email to me, which I published before I got confirmation from him that he was happy for me to do so. He wanted to write something more thoughtful which is what you see written here.

      If wanting to make the writing more thoughtful puts us on a par with Fox News i can live with that.

  11. My original post was an attempt for everyone to understand that, yes War Photographers, do deserve a different kind of respect in the industry. For what they do is really put their lives on the line. You may not like the message nor the way the images are used or manipulated by the industry. But that does not in the least way take away the respect I have for these young men and women that set out to record mankind at it’s most horrid nature. I have lost countless friends doing this craft. And to see duckrabbits sensational headline “The war photographer’s biggest story: themselves”. This yes… got under my skin and still does. For if any of you had any real experience in attempting this kind of photography, you would understand.

    From Robert Capa, David Douglas Duncan, Eugene Smith Larry Burroughs, Don McCullin, James Nactwey, Susan Meiselas, Patrick Chauvel, Jerome Delay, Luc Delehaye, Laurent Vanderstock, Jon Jones, Yuri Kozyrev, Christopher Anderson, Emmanuel Ortiz, Stanley Greene, Adam Ferguson, Joao Silva, Greg Marinovich, Alexandra Boulat, Ron Haviv, Enrico Dagnino, Yannis Behrakis to Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros.
    All of these and countless others have gone out, left their homes not knowing if they were going to come home from their assignment. Do any of you understand this. To even toy with the idea that this kind of photography is easy, is true joke. Yes anyone can go to war and make images, but to make images like the names above, It’s not just getting there. You have to be a superb photographer. Try and worry about composition and light when literally someone is trying to kill you….. And then you all start to cry foul when someone does a rare story on them. You go on this Fox news of a blog and go off on their motives. That the above mentioned names set out to do this kind of photography so they could be more or less famous than a Stephen Shore or a Robert Frank. You really think thats the motivation to be a war photographer…… Contact some of the living war photographers yourself and ask them their opinion on the industry and how their images are used, and what motivates them to do it. CONTACT Giles Duley and ask him if he did it so he could be famous and get a write up in the New York Times. Ask Joao Silva, WHY. This is why I used the term “arm chair journalist” my mistake should of said “arm chair war photographers”

    • duckrabbit says:

      Hi Christopher,

      thanks for your response and for finally engaging with what was written. It’s always terrible when we lose a friend and I am sorry for your losses over the years.

      It seems to me that we are talking about two different things.

      You argue that we should respect someone just for going off to war with a camera. I think that’s dangerous because there is a fine line between foolishness and bravery and often we can be both at the same time. There is no point dieing for photographs that will probably never reach much of an audience. That seems to me to be a waste of life and talent.

      Should we respect that names of the people listed above because they went to war, or because they created great work? For me it is the latter.

      The title of the post got under your skin, but why? It’s a comment on both editor’s and audiences. We can just keep applauding people for going to war with a camera or we can take a step back and ask ourselves why their work feels less and less relevant, why audiences and editors are more interested when they get injured or hurt?

      As for contacting living war photographers, when I was at the BBC the programme I was working on made a half hour feature with Don McCullin. I’m pretty safe in the bet that he would be outraged at the idea we should simply be applauding people just for going to war.

      I had lunch with Susan Meiselas last Friday. I know for a fact she would be concerned with the idea that we should applaud anyone merely for going to war with a camera, and I know that she would be concerned that audiences and editors seem to be more interested in the personal stories of the photographers than the images themselves.

      This year I have worked with Yasuyoshi Chiba in Eastern Congo. He won the Prix Baxeux on war reporting and I know for a fact that he is walking away from this kind of work because of the bullshit surrounding it; that he is disturbed at just how ill equipped some of the young people turning up in conflict situations are.

      Young people that you seem intent on encouraging to put their lives at danger so that they might earn your respect and maybe one day enter a club that is a part of history but has a diminishing role to play in the future. Young people whose best chance of getting a story published is if they get injured or kidnapped.

  12. iamnotasuperstarphotogrpher says:

    Christopher Morris, you make lots of passionate points. You are right, War photography is amazing, important and critical as part of the wider political debate on the subject. The photographers that do it well should be respected and their compositional skills under life threatening pressure admired BUT whilst quality War Photography is extremely difficult both in a compositional and especially a narrative sense, BAD quality war photography and calling yourself a war photographer is way too easy. Many agencies are guilty of creating this cult of supremacy and by giving accreditation to, using images from or only accepting photogaphers who have had an experience of war without any training. That is not good enough. I have known agencies to accept images from a newly graduated photojournalist with zero training for a war zone. It is time agencies only accepted images from a fully trained photographer who has gone on a course accredited by a body that all the major agency players advise and pay into.

    The industry loves a fee charging workshop… start giving them away for free on the discipline of being in a war zone. This would be an amazing way of enforcing professional responsibility and most of all the trust that seems so lacking in this industry from all sides. You might say that this will make the costs too high on both an agency or the prospective conflict potographer but you are giving your time for free and your experiences to a new generation. Most of all, you start building trust between prospective photjournalists, show a common cause in an industry from the tradgedy of Hetherington, Hondros and Silva turning an industry full of the destructive competitive survival instincts into collaboration and mututal respect. It will force a dialogue between those angry on the duckrabbit blog accusing war photographers of being self obsessed and those inside an industry angry their morality is being questioned from the outside. Bridge this gap well and the audience might even start listening again.

    The gap between the have’s in the industry and the have not’s in this rule by portfolio review industry is so great that the industry is in very bad health now. The people who suffer the most are audiences who left long ago. What you see on the duckrabbit blog is that trust gap between everyone inside photojournalism and those outside. Lower overall standards have set in as the economics of war photography is pretty much the economy of the industry as a whole. The industry used to take glory from big thematic projects such as Salgado’s Migrations (globalisation’s effect on people) and Arthus-Bertrand’s Earth from the Air (the enviroment) that struck the imaginations of the audience outside of the cult of self authorship and suffering because that cult is no longer trusted. Bendiksen, Anderson, JR and Kashi have shown how strong narratives can build trust in the medium as those names make me think of the breakdown of communism, life in Caracus, humanising the people living in poverty with innovative uses of photography and the impact of oil.

    (Chistopher Anderson – you say you have not read the posts so assume you are defending the community you are part of from a caricature that has long been too easy to place on an entire industry. The industry itself has to be guilty in part to the creation of this situation and that taints all of you and your work – I LOVE and OWN you work but think that the industry problems are real).

    I bet everyone has have had enough of reading war photographers call their places of work “foreign shitholes” (that deserves a very public apology/clarification of context) and the bloggers criticise crisis photographers as self obsessed with “being the story themselves” but it is a inevitable result of the lack of trust on both sides. Build that trust and give something that comes free – you time to show others how to survive in a conflict zone. Less people will die and the profession will be unified with a common objective to be admire by everyone. I’ll even organise it – for free – as a non industry participant.

    After that, maybe instead of the intense, inward, internal industry competition favouring the obsessed, excludes by portfolio review, has a business model run by editors and ends of being criticised by angry bloggers, everyone can focus on what should be central to everything to audiences – talking to audiences.

  13. No your site is the Fox news of photography blogs. You use headlines look at your headlines and your little snips
    “Christopher Morris, ‘Shut up, stop thinking for yourself and kneel before the almighty war photographer’s pictures’. Rafiqui., ‘Err, maybe not tonight Chris’.”

    “The war photographer’s biggest story: themselves” You play on the emotions of this very topic to stir up traffic to your site. That’s ugly.. That’s what really gets under my skin. This topic is discussed between my peers all the time.. A topic that can be discussed without such tone.”

    Every one of those names mentioned above was a one time a very inexperienced underpaid, undertrained photographer that went off to war. This is how life works. This is the only way to be properly trained in conflict photography. You can take all the classes and workshops in the world. The only real knowledge of comes by doing it. Tim & Chris were by far not inexperienced. If Don McCullin had not risked all and went out to document the world. What documents of human tragedy would we all miss. If Ron Haviv, with no experience had not ventured to a place called Bejeljina, what truths would the world know about Arkan and his killers. If Luc Delehaye had never ventured out as an inexperienced war photographer and documented the young girl lying in her own blood, clutching her dead dog.What would the world of know about the shelling of civilians in Sarajevo. I could go on and on.
    Who do you say that you want to document these horrors. You want only government trained photographers doing this. With your blind thoughts you would never let an Adam Ferguson step out to document war, look at his story of the young Afghan girl that was killed by his embed. Look at this… all of you. Look at Tim’s work from Liberia and what he did with Restrepo. Even without his death, his work would of lasted the test of time…. Then on your blog you go on about that no one is doing stories on the victims, you go on about how the media only does stories on the journalist that are hurt or killed. This is just not the case. Just do a basic google search. Get the facts, stories on journalist and wounded photographers are rare, because it’s rare when they are killed and wounded. You would prefer us to ignore them. ignore Joao, Ignore Mr. Duley, Ignore when Chris and Tim were killed. That would be the real injustice in my mind. Oh then you say what about the victims that were with them, how come no body is doing stories on them. For obvious reasons the journalist with them were either killed or wounded with them.

    • duckrabbit says:

      Chris you’ve replied to the wrong person.

      Iam not made the comments, not duckrabbit.

      I’m not stating wether young people should or shouldn’t go to war, just asking for a bit of honesty.

  14. Christopher Anderson says:

    I think think you have mistaken me for someone engaging in the debate about war photographers.
    I do appreciate the kind words about my work, really, but this isn’t about me. I haven’t mentioned my credentials (you seem to be fixated on this…i guess if you repeat it enough times it will become true). And I am happy that you have had some success…I do think it is great you have won awards etc, but this is not about your CV either. I never brought it up (you are the only one who seems to feel the need to state and defend your credentials).
    And I am not defending war photographers. The likes of Chris Hondros, Hetherington and Joao Silva dont need me to defend them (there lives and work speak pretty loudly for themselves).

    You see, the point is that I don’t even care about this debate (I guess I just don’t find it surprising that a spike in the number of journalists killed, kidnapped and seriously wounded gets press. I am just not surprised that Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros’ death makes news. After all, Tim was kind of a public figure already. I mean he was just on the red carpet for an Oscar 2 weeks before getting killed. That doesn’t make him more important than the civilians of Misrata, but it is kind of obvious that that might generate a headline or two). But my disinterest doesn’t mean I think you shouldn’t debate it or even criticize. Go right ahead. There seem to be a lot of people who are interested in having that conversation. Fine. Nor am I saying that you shouldn’t be allowed to have this debate or criticize unless you have certain credentials. You can have my mother on here debating it for all I care. I’m sure that if I took the time to read some of this conversation, I might even agree with some of the points. I’m sure I might even agree with some of YOUR points.
    I don’t know how I can make it any more plain to you that I don’t have any problem with the debate itself or anyone who engages in it.
    I have just one problem with all of this: the WAY you (and I mean YOU in particular) go about it. You are disingenuous, self righteous and self serving. You are a shallow opportunist. You are knowingly taking a tragedy and turning it into a sideshow for personal gain. You sensationalize. You write a big bold mock headline that quotes Christopher Morris as saying someone should shut up. He said no such thing, he just disagreed with you. You aren’t like Fox news, you are Glen Beck himself.

    You ARE the media, and yet you are criticizing the media for writing sensational stories about war photographers instead of reporting on the real human tragedy. And what is your tactic for carrying out this criticism? By writing more sensational stories about war photographers instead of telling the story of the humans who are suffering in Misrata right now. And somehow this irony is totally lost on you. Somehow you think that puts you on higher moral and intellectual ground.
    The debate is fine. It is being self righteous while using the tragedy of my friends to sell tickets to your blog (and thus to your workshops) that I find nauseating.

    • duckrabbit says:

      Hi Christopher,

      I’m not convinced when you state ‘I don’t even care about this debate’.

      Clearly you are in an angry space and no wonder having lost a close friend.

      But if I am so evil what does that say about the people who have commented here, of the hundreds (described by you as like Gawkers) who have shared this post and those who have blogged about it? Are they all naive because they can’t see the post for the Glen Beck tirade you know it to be?

      Read back. I didn’t criticise ‘the media for writing sensational stories about war photographers’. I didn’t criticise them for writing about Tim’s death who was not even mentioned. I didn’t criticise photographers for telling their own stories. I didn’t write about ‘sensationalism’.

      I criticised the media for publishing Guy Martins photos because he had been blown up. I criticised the fact that there seems to have been a lack of good photographic journalism coming out of Libya (which of course is a subjective opinion.) I criticised the fact that some audiences and some media are more interested in stories about photographers then the people in the pictures. Why do you feel so threatened by that? Why is that so controversial?

      I don’t feel the need to go to Libya to make a judgement (as if you never judge photographs about places you have never visited). I don’t need to be a photographer to have an opinion about photography.

      You write that I am knowingly taking a personal tragedy and turning it into a sideshow for personal gain. Isn’t that just an attempt by you to dictate what can and can’t be talked about?

      Have you not sold pictures of the dead and the dieing during your career for financial gain? Were those pictures not published in for profit magazines and appear alongside adverts for perfume and cars? Did you not agree to publish pictures of your family recently in the NYT Lens blog for personal gain, selling workshops off the back of them? Did you not notice the ads on the Lens Blog page, selling Forex trading alongside the beautifully taken pictures of your son? Isn’t that all part of the same media machine that we trade in some of the time, and now because it has come so close to home you expect the rules to change? It can’t work that way Christopher. For me or for you. This is no criticism, just stating facts.

      There are no tickets on sale for this blog. There’s nothing dark going on here, its as straight forward as it comes. You can’t dictate what people write about by descending to insults. You are just pouring fuel on the fire and ensuring more people come and read the post.

      If people like duckrabbit, then they can come onto a workshop where we will try and challenge the way they might think and at the same time have our own thinking challenged. Nothing cynical about that. And to be honest Christopher it’s our production work that brings people to our workshops, not the fact that someone upset you.

      The sad thing is that the sideshow, the freak show has become you getting angry and throwing insults at me. That’s what some people are coming here from twitter to laugh about now, instead of thinking about the importance of people seeing the photographs of conflict that really matter. What’s the point in this argument between me and you? In your insults? Where does it get either of us? It certainly doesn’t seem to make you feel any better and it won’t make a difference to your loss.

      You say the debate is fine, so live with it and the post from which it stemmed.

      I say you have much better things to do in life than get angry about what someone on the internet has written. Let it go. It’s not worth it.

  15. iamnotasuperstarphotogrpher says:

    For clarity, I am not duckrabbit, nor have any economic interest in duckrabbit, not a photojournalist nor work with or for any photo agency, nor am I part of their family of duckrabbit bloggers. I asked for trust as an outsider and an ex-audience member hoping for change.

    On the subject of change, “Every one of those names mentioned above was a one time a very inexperienced underpaid, undertrained photographer that went off to war. This is how life works. This is the only way to be properly trained in conflict photography. ”

    I do not for a second think this is how life works. It is the way you see it working. Photojournalism is not the only way to disseminate information on the war today. There is so much raw video footage and stills coming out from these places without the need for photojournalists to function in the way that they used to.

    So “What would the world of know about the shelling of civilians in Sarajevo.” you ask? Well the world would have TV, Radio and the written word. Now they have online newspapers, Twitter, Youtube and Facebook. There are alternatives that photojournalists need to consider outside of their industry and I would love to see some positive change so photojournalism as a whole can compete so it is no longer a viable route only for the “underpaid, undertrained photographer”.

    My idea may not be the right way, but it is an alternative way. A positive alternative to bulding trust between audiences and the medium. If all of you in the PJ’ism community say “this is the only way”, then everything will carry on as it is and no progress can be made given it is not even acknowledged that it is required.

    Both sides are angry, the caricature of the PJ’ism industry does exist and their is a need to build trust on all sides. I am not carrying a vested interest but would it not be better to work together in the face of the new media than to fight against each other on tired grounds?

    “Who do you say that you want to document these horrors.” The people are already doing so themselves and this is where the audiences are turning to.

    “You want only government trained photographers doing this.” – no, I asked for the experts you named to give workshops on how to maximise the chances of survival for free and give something wonderful to the next generation of shooters: your combined industry experience.

    As a member of the audience, I would love to see a positive reaction form the industry to some pretty tragic events. To do as much to minimise the risks and enforce profesional responsibility where ever it can be done because lives are at risk. Imagine if you promoted the virtue of training photographers to manage conflict zone risks, more photojournalists might get employed as confidence returns. Manage the idea that commissioners would not be personally responsible for sending a photographer to a place where death is a distinct possibility. To manage yourselves collectively would be a very powerful symbol to everyone out there to say “together, we are getting our house in order – hire us”.

    I am though a “foreigner” in this very developed world centric debate. I used to post comments here at times when I felt angry that my trust in concerned photography was being eroded. “Foreign shitholes” is not a very trust building statement. My last intervention before I walked away from the medium as a photo book buying audience member (last book bought: Capitolio hence my engagement here) was when Bruce Gilden was reported as calling Russian’s “inbred” and “dangerous” people. My partner is Russian and that is why I commented previously. This is not sensationalism – this is quoting the words of the practitioners themselves to highlight a legitimate trust deficit. What Gilden said hurts Magnum and the trust in the excellent work done in that part of the world by photojournalists such as Bendiksen.

    Steve Mayes is reported to have said that the integrity of the photographers is their biggest asset in VII so I just do not see how calling war zones “foreign shitholes” in any context is conducive to an agency selling integrity. It must hurt the rest of VII in the public’s eyes thus making it harder for editors to commission work from that brand. That idea of “foreign shithole” must contaminate the work of say, Ed Kashi and your own work shot outside of the US. I do not know of anyone that would support such a view from a professional in public place such as this and as an audience member from a different demographic, I am appalled.

    As someone outside the industry from an ethnicity far away from the white developing world, trust is something worth fighting for. Diversity, openess, debate and scrutiny the way to achieve it in all businesses – including photojournalism. Again, I have nothing sell, and no economic interests in this space.

    None of this builds trust. I have not bought a photo book since Capitolio – not even looked at one. Taryn Simon was my first visit to a photo show in a gallery in ages. That is a shame and I hope things change because without trust in the actual journalism/journalists, there is nothing else but the vacuous beauty of photographic compositions.

    So Chris Anderson, I am commenting as an audience member who once looked the work with with concerned eyes, innocent of the structures of the industry that protects its own at the expense of building trust with an audience.

  16. Christopher Anderson says:

    Dear iamnotasuperphotographer,
    I apologize, because of the timing of my last post it seemed as though I were answering to you. It was not directed toward you. I am only talking to the duckrabbit guy. I also never said anything about “foreign shitholes” (although in fairness to Christopher MORRIS, I think what he means by “shithole” is the fact that bombs are falling and bullets flying and people are suffering…I’m pretty sure he isn’t making a judgement of the culture and people).
    kind regards,

  17. iamnotasuperstarphotogrpher says:

    Dear Christopher Anderson,

    I know timing got a bit mixed up so no need for the apology, totally respect you chose to do so anyhow.

    My view on the use of “foreign shitholes” where because of US foreign policy in many cases, families are displaced, children are lost and troops on either side are in harms way, still stands. Audiences, a word used so very infrequently I find, will ultimately decide.

    The anger out there is real even if the catalyst for it was in many ways, very regretable. I stood aside a long time ago on this debate and will do so again, as I do not for a second think it will make any difference. I hope someone from VII makes a statement on where they stand as an organisation.

    Maybe it is time to review the current collective based model as an out of date, over unionised, over protected, unemployable closed shop full of people shoving information methods from a bygone era into new media audiences who choose to think for themselves. I hope that is not the case and audiences still matter.

    Your work stands far above the usual technique of artistic engrandisement and if this industry finds a better structure to survive in, I hope it lasts the test of time for both you (as a journalist) and your family (financially).



  18. Forgive me please for using the words “foreign shit holes”. It is wrong. I’m sorry for everyone i offended.
    Especially since I forgot who was reading this horrible duckrabbit blog.
    It is a term that I used to describe the feeling when your lying on the ground bleeding out, knowing that you are never going home. Where ever home might be. You have this sickening feeling deep inside that this is where you will expire. Where you have made that fatal mistake. This is the total realization….. that fuck… I’m going to die here… Even if not wounded, if you do this job long enough you will have countless situations, where you face this realization. That you my never come home.. Ask any photographer who has faced death in some foreign land if this is not true.. Something in you soul that cries out to you to bring me home, please get me out of here. The thought of Tim bleeding out on a war strewn street in Mizrata, brought those memories back very clear to me.. The thought…………. of please just bring me home… please don’t let me die here. Here could be anywhere. This is why i used those words.
    Libya was and is a stunning place, a rare jewel in North Africa, rarely visited by any of us. But when it’s not your home and you lay in some rubble strewn street bleeding to death, far away from your loved ones. You feel like your dying ,forgive the expression “in a ” .

    You asking for VII to make a statement? Did I read that correctly. I speak for myself.. My words are my words, the don’t belong to VII.
    This question from someone who hides behind an anonymous tag. Stand up and be proud of who you are.

    • duckrabbit says:

      Hi Chistopher,

      its easy to write things and have them come out the wrong way (or people to misinterpret them).

      Thanks for your further thoughts on this. I’m sure that they are appreciated.

      I once had an experience where I thought I was going to die. All I could do was pray that it wouldn’t happen until the person I loved came back. I think you capture that feeling.

      If you are going to go, you want it to be home, with the people you love. So true.

    • Iamnotasuperstarphotographer says:

      Good try Christopher Morris. I am a nobody and prefer it that way. I hate the way the cult of the individual dominates the way the industry is run by the commodification of the photographer and not the story. This is why “Iamnota…” was first created, tongue in cheek.

      Then I kept it going because it made a bit of noise and stayed anonymous because I mentioned situations depersonalised, like the racism I experienced when for a brief moment in photography, I felt “foreign”.

      I have long since moved on.

      I have left the idea a long time ago of being part of the industry because I became hyper sensitive to “concerned photographers” replicating the same ideology of foreign suffering. As you can see, I still am. It did me no good so I am out of it – to be so wound up in what I saw. So in effect, who I am does not matter as I am not part of this game. I did not want to stand in a place where foreigners are photographed by developed world photographers, shown on opening nights with others sipping wine, looking at “foreigners” suffering, telling each other how bad things are in front limited editions that no reasonable person can afford. I mean, limited editioned journalism?

      I cannot remember ever feeling very welcomed by the industry to be honest and I do not see any change coming. You run things, I don’t. All I can retain is my ability to withdraw my membership from being part of your audience, which I will do once again. After all, what’s the point if at the very top, it is said that there is only one way of doing things because “that’s life”? Fair enough, it is your free choice.

      Thank you for your clarification on the “foreign shithole” comment and good luck.



  19. Iamnotasuperstarphotographer says:

    (yes duckrabbit, I am caricaturing but there is enough of that for me to be demoralised by it!)

  20. William Di Renzo says:

    Hey Duckrabbit,
    That’s pretty cool how you go back and edit what you wrote the day before, taking out the more inflammatory parts and toning it all down…things like the freak show bit etc. It works, you sound less whiney and defensive and the other guy ends up sounding kinda reactionary and nutty. I wouldn’t have noticed except that Anderson copied and pasted you in his reply, and then magically the next day your text is different. Revisionism. Cool. Me like to ethics. Fox News could learn a thing or two from you.

    • duckrabbit says:

      Thanks for your comment William. I took out the word freak or freakshow BEFORE Chris responded, not the next day.

      Its funny isn’t it. You get accused of being inflamatory and then when on reflection you want to make a comment less confrontational you get beaten up for that. Oh well …

      That said I don’t think anyone would disagree that the daft back and forth had become a bit of a freakshow.

  21. William Di Renzo says:

    Before? How is that possible? It appears as though he copied and pasted you dude.

  22. craig says:


    Christopher copies and pastes Duckrabbit’s original post into Word, intent on writing a response offline. Meanwhile, Duckrabbit tones down his post. Christopher then posts his response with Duckrabbits original post embedded within.

    Something like that is logically possible.

  23. Christopher Morris says:

    Us Christoher Morris’ being controversial. Not me BTW. Haha

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