Power and Responsability / by Chris Chucas

Week 5


Power and Responsibility

Photography is a powerful means of communication. Photographs have an inherent great power embedded into them, but one might argue the real power is in the curation and context of the image. One prime example of a controversial use of an image is that of Jeff Mitchell’s image of refugees crossing into Croatia. His image was used by UKIP with a strong anti-migrant message.



Mitchell is a professional photographer documenting what is happening and is working for a photo agency. I think Jeff Mitchell has not done anything ethically wrong here. In his own view he says ‘The people in the photo have been betrayed by Ukip, rather than me personally’, and ‘You have to remain impartial. I’m there to record what happens. I know it sounds simplistic, but you shoot what’s in front of you.’ 

I agree with Mitchell that he has not intentionally gone out of his way to cause harm or damage to these people. UKIP has betrayed these people and is actively trying to stoke up feelings of hate between people. 


The balance of power between author subject and audience becomes a very complicated one especially when photo agencies are in the mix. We need to look at the intentions of the picture agencies and clients licensing. I think what UKIP have done is morally and ethically wrong on every level. It’s trying to use fear to divide people and promotes hatred.


Do I think Mitchell has wants that? Certainly not ( and we know that is no the case now from his comment in the article)? I kind of agree with his stance in remaining neutral. Unfortunately there are always going to be issues that going to contested with different views we need to keep as much freedom as possible with image makers and question the media appropriating them. Perhaps he could have spoken out against it using new media like twitter but that would might have upset getty. Perhaps the structure is the problem, maybe a photographer approved status on the article? Nothing was technically wrong on his part here, and I think we need to place more blame on to UKIP than anyone else. It’s not an easy situation to fix at all and any big changes usually risk somebody's freedom.


In relation to my own practice I don’t like the thought of my work being used in an unethical immoral way, if you work for an agency I don’t think you can control that and that is the main reason I wouldn’t be interested in shooting for an agency.

Taking a closer look at the subject. audience, and author triangle within my own practice. 

The Subject – This is tricky, the subject is; the people and places I am around and also encompasses me. I mentioned before that I place myself in the images as a kind of sacrifice to make it more democratic. I offer myself up the make the balance more equal, we are all the same. I do not hold more power because I am not the only one taking images. 

The image maker or author. 

Again in a fairly democratic way I am the main image maker but there are other’s too. So in that sense I am an author or curator of images that they have taken. This again is a fairer more democratic way of portraying what’s happening. I am experiencing the moment with them as well. I personally feel it’s better to step away from trying to be completely impartial and un biased ( as it’s impossible ) and approach it this way instead. It’s honest at the very least. 

The Audience

In relation to my own practice I’m still looking at who my audience is. At the moment, I envisage the project being a book and or exhibition. So the audience would be anyone that wants to see it and I imagine that a large part of that would be people involved (so bands artists and even people at the shows). This is definitely the least concrete part of the triangle for me and something I need to look at closer.

As for progress with my own work I've been looking at working a little slower. When I say slower I mean In a more directional way. So i'll make contact with the sunbetc and then spend a little time talking about the project and my intentions before going to for a walk and talking more about how they feel about it. I'll place them into whatever I have a available in the local environment. In a more editorial way of working as opposed to the spontaneous candid way of working I've done more of.