The VII agency and specifically one of their founding members Ron Haviv are weathering a debate on morals and ethics of using war imagery for advertisement. In this case an image taken by Haviv, was licensed through his commercial agency.
What’s interesting of course is that a photojournalist who is member of an agency which states that it selects photojournalist by the ‘highest standards of journalistic and documentary integrity’ and that the mission of VII is to ‘ to use photography for positive change.‘ allowed his image to be licenced by Lockheed Martin, one of the larges weapon manufacturer. Here’s an interesting opinion on it all.
So what’s really being asked here?
That photojournalism be banned from advertising? That it is unethical to use news-photography to promote products? Or, that photojournalism should only be used for products that assume the same or at least a similar context, mood and message as originally intended or witnessed by the photographer?
Should there be a clear guideline for which images can be used and which not, and for which clients and for which not? And who is to say what’s right or wrong?
And if you take this further, should there even be awards for photojournalism? Something to be proud of? Should they be regarded as art? Printed and hung on a wall? In Museums? Isn’t that commercialisation of poverty, war and suffering?
It is vital to note that photojournalism in advertising is not really new and that photojournalism has even sometimes been regarded as the ‘mother of advertising’. That is, the practice of taking photographs in a photojournalistic kind of way, as things happen, in contrast to staged studio production. Photojournalism has often been the preferred form for advertisement because of its ability to communicate powerfully, the passion and energy of real-life moments using ʻrealʼ images. Robert Doisneauʼs “Kiss by the Hotel de Ville” (1950) comes to mind as Benetton’s Life Today campaign.
Each image, story, photographer and scenario is so different. Perhaps each case of photojournalism and advertising really needs to be looked at individually. Though, if I can say that much, I would probably not have let a massive war profiteering company use my images, especially after knowing so much about the suffering. Same reason I try to avoid filling up my car at Shell. I know it’s a bit futile and Shell don’t need my $50, but it’s one little thing I can do. What’s your thoughts on this?