One Photograph, Conflicting Perspectives

Homeless Man
PHOTO: Darren Calabrese / National Post

If you’re living anywhere in the colder parts of North America, chances are you’re like me today – wearing two pairs of pants, two shirts and a hoodie and only leaving your house when it’s absolutely necessary. It’s THAT cold. With Canadian temperatures dipping leaps and bounds below freezing point with wind-chill, most of the country is under extreme weather warnings and advisories.

The National Post published this story about the cold conditions the nation is facing and the precautions we should be taking. The story was accompanied by a photograph of a homeless man dusted in snow, asleep on the sidewalk and it stirred many thoughts in my mind.

I understand the intention of the image completely, but something about the fact that someone saw this man and photographed him irks me enough to debate its necessity.

The first thought I have is that of course, the photo drives home an important message. There are people suffering on our streets and this serves as a stirring reminder that winter is cruelest to those without homes. The footprints that trace where people have stepped around him and the people walking in the background paint a picture of the unfortunate reality that people ignore what makes them uncomfortable. In my mind this is no doubt an issue of equality that we should all be working to correct. The image tells a complete story in itself and I can see why the photographer would snap it.

On the other hand I can’t help but feel that the photographer should have sought some kind of help for the man and used that to create an even more interesting story, if not an informative one. Most areas of the country are facing frostbite warnings and in some cases, risk of hypothermia, so I just can’t imagine myself stopping to photograph this scene while for all I know he could need medical attention and at the very least, shelter. To me it seems ironic that in a story about keeping safe from the cold a photographer would pause to capture the image of someone who is highly at risk, instead of immediately getting them care.

I’m currently studying journalism and as such I’ve taken an entire course dedicated to the ethics and laws that rule a journalist’s life and work. For every debate it came down to necessity vs. exploitation to encourage more people to view your pages and pick up your paper. With a simple story about the weather this image felt out of place, especially because the story has only one line about homelessness and not in an informative “this is how to help,” way, but instead says “under such conditions, the city focuses on helping homeless people off the streets.”

If there’s one thing this photo demonstrates, it’s that the city isn’t doing a very good job.

What do you think? Would you have taken this shot at all, let alone to go with a basic story about cold temperatures? Is it the media/photographer’s job to do something or just to tell the story in hopes of encouraging other people?

Rant Warning: Instagram and Facebook – they’re all evil and stealing my photos!

Intagram Devil

“Everything has to be free, and no you’re not allowed to make money off me in any way whatsoever!” Collectively we have become a whiny, spoiled community of hypocritical leeches expecting other people to do stuff for us, but without offering anything of our own (money or otherwise) in return.

We all knew it was coming, not exactly what, when or how, but that something bad was going to happen to our beloved Instagram once the Internet’s dark lord, Facebook, bought them last Spring. There was an uproar this morning when popular photo-sharing site Instagram announced changes to their terms of service that meant it has the perpetual right to sell users’ photographs without payment or notification.

Being a photographer who works for a camera gear website, my Facebook news feed was flooded with people utterly disgusted with the change and I’d like to address that. As creative professionals, we love to bitch about how people expect us to work for free, but we also don’t hesitate for a second to chastise someone else when they try to make a little money.

Instagram is a free app, so is Facebook. Don’t like how they use your information? Stop using their service. Do you have any idea how many man hours it takes to build and maintain something like that little free app on your phone? How many talented developers (who are also creators, artists of their medium) it took to create that thing that make your life easier, lets you connect with friends and family and helps you generate more business? I can almost guarantee that each of these photographers on my feed have had at least dozens of business leads through social media channels, and that’s money in their pockets. Money they would not have if it weren’t for the hard work of the people at Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and the hundreds of other marketing tools out there.

So when these companies try to find some way to monetize their product, everyone throws a hissy fit and calls foul. We are a generation of digital entitlement. The generation that pirates music, movies, software and anything else we can get our grubby little hands on. “I should be able to use your thing for free, because it’s not hurting anyone, but the big evil faceless corporations”. We only give a hoot when it’s our work that gets exploited. We do it all the time, “I should be able to use your song on my slideshow without paying a licencing fee, but you’re not allowed to use my photos because they’re mine!” It’s the same complaint every time and I’m sick of it. Not that I agree with the new terms of use policy, I’m just sick of people complaining, without taking action. They go on using the app, but with a chip on the shoulder. They’ll post status updates to the tune of “deleting Instagram,” “killing Instagram,” “goodbye Instagram” But in reality they go right on using the product. Why? Because it’s a useful product. Well then don’t you think the creators should be compensated for making it? It’s been said a gabillion times before, if you didn’t pay for the product, you are the product.

At the end of the day, the new changes won’t affect 99.9 percent of users. Your poorly framed, over-exposed snapshot of your omelet cooking skills won’t be featured in any cooking magazines. But please, please, please if you really think the new changes are unfair, switch services and use any one of these 11 Instagram alternatives, I’m sure the dip in users will prompt Instagram to reconsider and adjust accordingly, but the reality is there will be no noticeable change in usage and we’re all going to have to deal with it. Btw, if anyone is still with me, here’s what the update really means.