To Shoot or Not To Shoot

I heard a revving engine. Then a screech. Then a crash. And then I saw a man get hit by a car. Just moments ago.

Actually, he wasn’t simply hit: I caught view of him milliseconds after he’d been struck by one car, while slammed momentarily between it and another car, this one parked. They were smashed–bumper to bumper–and as the two cars recoiled off one another, he crumpled to the ground.

I was the first on the scene along with Mikal and Kate from the studio. Mikal was on the line with 911 in seconds. The stricken man writhed on the ground grabbing his thigh, pelvis, shin. Groaning. A young driver emerged from the car, in shock, pale-faced, horrified. Hyperventilating.

The driver was the man’s 15 year old daughter.

He’d been helping her learn to parallel park. He’d gotten out of the car to direct her. She mistook the gas from the brake. And it went badly.

It was only after getting the man stable on his back, his head on a pillow with help on the way, that I was able to take a moment to think along a non-mission-critical path. I had my camera with me, as I always do. But I wasn’t about to take a photo. I couldn’t fathom it. For another brief moment, I felt dirty for even thinking about it. But some people can and some people do take photos in times like this. During war, during trama, during accidents, and sometimes these images are deeply important. Other times it’s cold and shallow to shoot. And a horrible invasion of privacy.

So how do we know when not to shoot?

[For the record, I wrote this yesterday intending to publish it immediately. Decided I needed to let it sit for a bit. This morning with some clarity, decided I’d love to hear from some others.]

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256 Responses to To Shoot or Not To Shoot

  1. N.C.F. February 16, 2010 at 11:01 am #

    It's the hardest part of being in the right place, at the wrong time.

    The debate really comes down to how much one can help, without a camera in the hand. You're clearly no medical professional, so your limited on how much assistance you can provide. But, if you're the ONLY one on the scene… you don't have much of a choice.

    That's been my policy : If I can help, help. If I cannot, shoot.

  2. Rescue Monkey February 16, 2010 at 11:01 am #

    Never shoot the personal tragedy. As a firefighter/Paramedic, I try to take photos that obscure the patients face or any identifiable features. When I am "On the clock" I have to tend to the patient first, so all my photographing occurs off duty.

  3. John Amunét February 16, 2010 at 11:02 am #

    Now that's a tricky one. I believe we need the documenting and good news shooters are essential in bringing truth and clarity to people.

    I guess the bottomline is what the motive for shooting something is. If you can do good with it, even through shocking some, it is worth shooting. Otherwise I'd leave it alone.

  4. Dave February 16, 2010 at 11:02 am #

    I think you did the right thing by not shooting. In cases where there is nothing you can do to help, I would think that taking photos is acceptable, but in this case where you and your friends were busy calling 911, etc., there are clearly more pressing concerns than documenting the event.

    But I wouldn't feel bad about considering it, of course you did, we all would.

  5. John B. Mueller Photography February 16, 2010 at 11:03 am #

    Photos are not only used for beauty, but also for documenting. Feel blessed that you do have a camera/skills to help document the good as well as the bad…. of course after making sure the situation was stabilized. But if you were doing HDR crash scene shots, that might be overkill.

  6. François Meehan February 16, 2010 at 11:03 am #

    I think you did the right thing. I wouldn't either. If not comfortable to do it, then don't.

    There might have been a nice shot to be made, but self esteem has more value.

    It is all in your honor.


  7. Aharon Delacruz February 16, 2010 at 11:04 am #

    Like they say, "if you need to ask, then you already know the answer" No

  8. Mike February 16, 2010 at 11:04 am #

    If you are in a position to help you must help first.

    Beyond that, shoot away and let the viewer make judgments about the appropriateness of the photo.

  9. ezra marcos February 16, 2010 at 11:04 am #

    No shooting in your case…and even if I was a photojournalist in Haiti or where ever…I'd have a hard time shooting. I understand the purpose of it…but when I put myself in the shoes of the subject…the person experiencing some kind of trauma or pain…hmmm…I don't think I could shoot…but that's me…

  10. evablue February 16, 2010 at 11:04 am #

    the question should probably be "to publish/post or not to publish/post".

    shoot first. think later.

  11. Brian Larter February 16, 2010 at 11:04 am #

    I've always been of the opinion that as a photographer it is your job to document a situation or an event. No matter how gruesome it may be. War comes to mind.

    Now at the same time, taking the photo is one thing. Publishing it for the public to see is another.

    Obviously if you are the only one on the scene then you do your best to comfort the person. Photos are important but not as important as someones safety or health.

  12. Reinaldo@rmrpictures February 16, 2010 at 11:04 am #

    I have been in similar situations and like you, didn't shoot. I think it takes a certain type of photog to forget all else and get the shot. I'm just not that guy, but admire people who can do it. I also could never be a paparazzi photog because I respect peoples privacy and don't like invading peoples space…

  13. jeff February 16, 2010 at 11:05 am #

    If you can help, you need to help first.

    Once your helping is over or if there are professionals or more capable helpers on the scene, I think shooting (as long as you're not looking for exploitative shots or violations of privacy, such the victim's face) is up to your personal ethics.

    I can see going either way, as it's quite a grey area. But if you feel in your heart that there was nothing more you could do to help and you weren't taking advantage of the person's misfortune, I wouldn't feel guilt about it.

  14. Naren February 16, 2010 at 11:05 am #

    Yeah, we can, as long as ya don't profit or for fun.

  15. Ryan February 16, 2010 at 11:05 am #

    I think every moment is different….don't shoot if its not your getting your hands dirty actually dealing with someone life…I have had to throw my camera down a few times in my career…one with a base jump incident in Idaho…in 30 people no one else knew how to give proper care….if I show up at the scene as the stringer…I always shoot….. Definitely a fine line…I am currently thinking of heading down to Haiti always as a photog but offering medical help when needed….call me in a few months….

  16. Blasteh February 16, 2010 at 11:05 am #

    I was in a similar situation, except not as serious as no one was hurt and there was nothing I could've done to help; it was an apartment fire and I was on the street looking in.

    I pulled out my camera and shot away.
    Might aswell right? Not something that's gonna happen again (I hope).

  17. Paul Conrad February 16, 2010 at 11:06 am #

    Even as a photographer at a newspaper, I've always believed what my photo professor, Dave LaBelle, said: You are a human being first, a photographer second.

    With over 10 years of experience chasing breaking news, I'll speak to this very situation.

    If you are first on the scene, before any rescue personnel, you should put your camera down and give what help may be needed. That may be simply calling 911, helping the victims get their bearing, or performing CPR. Because what you do on the outset, may help save a life.

    What's more important: saving a life or taking a photo. You'll have opportunities after the emergency crews arrive to take photos.

  18. Heidi February 16, 2010 at 11:06 am #

    i can understand fully how you felt Chase .. the most important thing to remember before you feel dirty is before the thought even crossed your mind you took care of the man.. i have seen time and time again people that pick of their camera and start shooting leavieng people laying there in pain just to get a shot did the right thing and i myself would not have shot either .. as photographers we all have the urge to capture every moment in time with our lens but we have to remember thats a person there not a frame and take care of them .. kudos to you for how you handled it and for putting it out here for more people to think about

  19. David Teran February 16, 2010 at 11:06 am #

    I have gotten a lot of crap just from shooting an injury on a football field, of a friend of mine.

    The funny thing was that I got crap from the opposing team's cheerleaders, and their coach.

    His (the injury-ridden player) parents were OK with me taking the photos, and I knew that he would be fine with it, as well.

    I think it's just a matter of personal preference, and if you're comfortable with it.

    On the other hand, I'm not entirely sure I'd be crazy with a stranger getting a "photography high" off of my situation – that is, getting a great personal portfolio shot.


  20. Jimi Sweet NYC February 16, 2010 at 11:06 am #

    My gut instinct would be to help. However, if there's already a ton of people helping, calling 911, etc., and there's little more that I can personally contribute, I would probably shoot. That being said, I would be very careful about what I was actually shooting. I'm personally not a fan of gore and shock value, so I think I'd keep my focus on the larger picture, or the emotions of the onlookers and people assisting. And THAT being said, having photographic evidence might help the police, insurance companies, etc. with their investigation.

    So yeah, once I was assured that the victim(s) were being assisted, I'd probably start shooting.

  21. Spencer February 16, 2010 at 11:07 am #

    I think there are times where you have to think about the end product of the photo. Take Haiti as an example, photojournalist there are helping raise world awareness and support for the needy through there work. A photo of car crash victim could at best be used by police to determine fault, but not really beneficial in any other way to the victim.

  22. Allen Ross Thomas February 16, 2010 at 11:08 am #

    There are situations like this every day. While I do not support the lack of common human courtesy and privacy some photographers exhibit (the paparazzi militia for example) – it is not so much taking the picture, but what you do with it which poses the moral and ethical dilemmas. This is certainly a terrible tragedy for the family. Knowing the story after the fact I would have no interest in the photos or publication of them. However, what if it were a hit and run accident and photographic evidence may be useful in prosecution? Same accident, much different story to tell.

  23. martinburmester February 16, 2010 at 11:08 am #

    never shoot something like this

  24. Rodger February 16, 2010 at 11:09 am #

    That's a tough one.. I'm not sure what I'd do.

    I think that if you were to shoot, the intent behind how the images would be used would be very important. If you are a war photographer and you take photos to show the world what real, front-of-the-line war looks like, then your shooting is honorable. If you're shooting for the wrong reasons, than you shouldn't be shooting.

    So if you were to shoot the scene you described, I say do so with the intent of making teenagers and new drivers aware that mistakes happen, and that is why drivers must give driving their undivided attention.

    If you shot the scene just to post a picture online and caption it "Stupid woman driver gets brake and gas mixed up: nails dad with car". Then obviously you shouldn't shoot it.

    How we present the media we create is almost more important in my eyes than the actual photos/videos themselves.

    Just my 2 cents. Interested in hearing others' opinions.


  25. Kristi W @ Life at the Chateau Whitman February 16, 2010 at 11:09 am #

    I always think about the impact that the photo will have on those who view it. What is the message? In the case of things like wars or horrible natural disasters, sometimes photos can emotionally affect others in a way that inspires action. I know with the recent Haiti earthquake, I couldn't begin to imagine how bad it actually was until I saw some of the photos. The devastation made me feel helpless, and I immediately wanted to help. In the case of your accident, I am not sure what people would have learned from a photo like that. Be more careful when learning to drive? It just doesn't seem the same as my first example. Definitely a lot of gray is this discussion, as with any ethical debate, but I think it helps to think about the message of the photo.

  26. ErikRc February 16, 2010 at 11:10 am #

    As a fireman in a busy jurisdiction this is a question I wrestle with daily. The difference is, I have the training and an obligation to render service. With that said most of my pics are after the incident is over which is to say not very exciting. After the incident I try to focus on the emergency personnel.

    You did the right thing. If it happened and others were already on the incident providing aid, you could comfortably sit back and document the scene. Simple human behavior dictates we provide when others are having an emergency.

    That feeling to shoot in the midst of chaos is always there. It never goes away but it doesn't mean you should feel bad.

  27. matm February 16, 2010 at 11:10 am #

    I think documentary filmmaking always brings with it an inherent ethical question. When do you stop hiding behind the lens and help? Sometimes though, hiding behind the lens, documenting, is helping. It provides an eye into a world some may never experience, which is a powerful tool, and to me is necessary and helpful to society.

    I agree with N.C.F., if you are the only one that can help, or are qualified to help and a life or injury is on the line, then put the camera down and do what you can. But, if someone else is there who can help or is more qualified, I think snap away. Then again there are always going to be exceptions to that rule too. I think its just assessing the situation.

    With war journalism, you're there to shoot, to cover it, so why wouldn't you? Just in the same sense that the soldiers are there to do a job.

    I think the most important point though is just going with your gut and how you personally feel in the situation. There will always be people who agree or disagree with when to pull out the camera, but it all boils down to how you feel about it at that moment. If it causes you to lose sleep for the rest of your life, may be best to put the camera away.

  28. Steve February 16, 2010 at 11:10 am #

    There can be documentary value in shooting accidents like 9-11 or national disasters for news stories and to preserve a record of what happened, but in an accident like you witnessed? It wouldn't really serve any purpose.

    I guess maybe some pictures would help in some types of accidents for legal and/or medical reasons? Not really what you're asking though.

    The picture you want to take is the smiling father and daughter coming out of hospital on the road to recovery!

  29. Laurence Hardy February 16, 2010 at 11:11 am #

    I'm a photojournalist and wanting to do documentry photog. so my instict says if you can help you help but if the picture is going to do more help than than you can achieve at that time it's worth it.

    the picture of the baby and the vulture come to mind anyone?

  30. Rikke February 16, 2010 at 11:11 am #

    I think there's a significant difference in war and one persons misfortune/accident.

    It's important to document war, famine and so on, but it doesn't have any point shooting a man getting smashed between to cars.

    Here you can only do what you can do to help out. Even if it is leaving and letting professionels do their job.

    But that's just my 5 cent

    /Rikke, Copenhagen – Denmark

  31. Anonymous February 16, 2010 at 11:11 am #

    If I'm first on the scene I would help first and shoot later. If I'm not the first let the shutter roll.

  32. sunith February 16, 2010 at 11:11 am #

    Before every role you play, a photographer, a journalist, you are a human being. Your conscience will tell you whether it is right or wrong. Some would choose to ignore it saying that they are just doing their jobs. But I am sure, everyone realized it when they had shoot at an inappropriate moment.

  33. codyjbennett February 16, 2010 at 11:12 am #

    I think it would depend on how close I am to the event. As a first responder to a trauma, my mental place is not to grab a camera. And, because of the emotional charge, even if I weren't required to assist, I still probably wouldn't reach for my camera.

    Though, if I were to be secondarily involved (pulled over to see if I could assist, etc), I might consider a shot or two as editorial. It's really a tough call.

    Last year, there was a suicide attempt in Juneau, AK and the photo was critiqued as the lady eventually passed from her injuries. (

    It would seem that it may be specific to the person and their level of comfort.

  34. Javie February 16, 2010 at 11:12 am #

    It is what is in your soul, I read your blog for one reason. You help people, that is who you are.

  35. matthew lyons February 16, 2010 at 11:12 am #

    There's nothing wrong with ruminating about the "what ifs." As photographers, I think it's only natural to have "capture the image" coursing through our thoughts. However, as others have stated, the innate instinct of compassion and humanity override our learned instincts as visual documentarians.

  36. Ana Adams February 16, 2010 at 11:13 am #

    Agree with Rescue Monkey.
    If you gave all the help you could, or someone else is already helping, you can probably obscure people's faces and get strong images at the same time.
    You never know, those photos could even help in a dispute or insurance case.

  37. ljp February 16, 2010 at 11:13 am #

    I'm sorry you saw this but glad you and other clear-headed people were on scene to help. I hope this man and his daughter will heal well and swiftly.
    In some situations where I've had to question whether or not to shoot I've made the choice based on whether or not the photo would have value to anyone involved in the situation.
    In the case of an accident, the photos can sometimes answer complicated legal questions.
    I'm more often concerned about whether or not I'm violating someone's privacy. This is a very complicated question. Again, it's a case by case issue and I value sensitivity as part of a photographer's skill set.
    I look forward to reading other comments on this and I refer you to the shocking but amazing photo by Robert Wiles:

  38. Shane February 16, 2010 at 11:13 am #

    The minute you stepped into help, you became "Part of the Story" any attempt to step back after that point and try to document it from a journalistic point of view crosses an ethical boundary (although that boundary seems to have been stretched beyond it's breaking point recently in Haiti).

    That said there may be instances where photographic evidence could be helpful to an accident investigation, given the circumstances here, I can't see where any photos shot of the immediate aftermath would be of any relevant value from an investigative perspective. Though some photos of the vehicles after the immediate needs of the people were taken care of might.

    As noted previously, in this case not shooting WAS the right thing to do. I think the best litmus test in these situations is the one you described "Would taking this shot make me feel dirty?"

    Sometimes a conscience is a valuable asset.

  39. Pedro February 16, 2010 at 11:14 am #

    You did the right thing, no question about it. The tought of taking a picture in those circumstances is natural, you are a photographer, you take pictures. But in a split second decision you made the most rational option: you helped the person in distress. I guess that my point is: help comes first, everything else second.

  40. Daniel February 16, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    While wearing a 5DII, I chased a mugger off of a lady. I forgot to take any photos of the criminal – didn't even remember the camera until everything was over.

  41. Jessica Bjorn February 16, 2010 at 11:17 am #

    Personally, I could not shoot. Unless somehow the people involved thought to ask me to for some reason. Tragedy is so personal, and in America our society is definitely not keen on embracing pain and suffering.
    I would be torn, seeing a million images and moments that would be beautiful and poignant. But how could I invade the privacy of the people involved?
    Perhaps a different situation would warrant picture… the incident mattering on a greater scale. A crime needing documentation.
    Perhaps the incident can serve as inspiration for another photo-shoot?

  42. Al Graham February 16, 2010 at 11:17 am #

    1) help. If your assistance is needed, that take top priority. If someone more qualified comes along, defer to them and assist as needed.

    2) stay out of the way. Don't hinder the efforts of those that are helping.

    3) shoot. If you aren't helping, shoot it. Those photos may be important later in a court, as part of an insurance settlement, or just to identify a hero. The victim's identity could turn it into a newsworthy story.

    4) decide which photos, if any, to delete. Let your conscience be your guide.

  43. JR Photography BC February 16, 2010 at 11:17 am #

    Life comes first, photos second. It's as simple as that.

  44. Craig D. February 16, 2010 at 11:17 am #

    I've been a photographer for fire and police departments for years as well as a freelance photojournalist. Yours has been an age-old dilemma for myself and my colleagues. Do you shoot or do you help?

    In your particular scenario though, the answer is clear: You help. You're human before you're a photographer. Also, you weren't there as a photojournalist so there's no imaginary wall you can't cross. You're a first responder. Not only that, there's no journalistic value to the scene and the compassionate route was the one to take IMHO. Even if not medically trained you can comfort not only the victim but the young driver.

    I've been in many scenarios over the years. Deep inside a wildland fire with homes being consumed and firefighters stretched thin. Although a tough call, I've ended up pulling a lot of hoseline and opening hydrants, etc. because these actions were far more valuable than the images. The decision is certainly a case by case thing but sometimes it's easier made than others.

  45. Alex February 16, 2010 at 11:18 am #

    The taste or lack of is not in the documenting. It is in publishing.

    So you do what feels right at the time. There is no wrong or right at the time. Only afterwards.

  46. Jim Goldstein February 16, 2010 at 11:18 am #

    It would seem to me the right answer is:
    "When you have reason or purpose to shoot."
    Seeing as you weren't working as a photojournalist and the accident wasn't part of a story being covered it would make no sense to take photos. Well at least photos that serve a predefined purpose.

    There in lies the gray area for me. Photographing the aftermath of a school shooting (as an example) after its happened is one thing… to share a witnesses account, but being a first responder is another. The same is true for this accident. Helping people in immediate need would seem to be the logical and ethical choice to make. Ensuring safety is first and foremost whether by you or someone else…. after that then it makes sense to fathom any purpose or value of taking photographs of the scene.

    Thats how I see it as a non-photojournalist.

  47. Brady Puryear February 16, 2010 at 11:19 am #

    I really think that what you plan on doing with the photographs are the key element to your decision here. If you photographed this situation then put up the photos with a paypal donation button with all the money going to help the family with medical bills, car repair and such that would be great but if you taking them just to have bloody photos to show your friends later then you'd be a jerk.

  48. Jeffrey Chapman February 16, 2010 at 11:21 am #

    I experienced a very similar circumstance about two weeks ago. I didn't see the crash, but I heard it. Then I heard the screams. A man was hit while crossing the road. He was thrown at least thirty feet. His leg was clearly broken and there was a small pool of blood near his head. The truck that hit him had a large V indented in the front of it. It wasn't good. I ran to help him. I got there second. Just before me a woman arrived who said she was a nurse. She took charge of caring for the man who was hit, and she did so very well (at least at first). I meanwhile worried about making sure we weren't hit by traffic as we were in the middle of the road.

    It never occurred to me that I could be taking photos, but then out of nowhere, and before the ambulance could even get there, a man began taking photographs. I wasn't particularly pleased, but we were on a public street. The nurse, however, went ballistic. She stopped caring for the man who was writhing in pain. She got up and began yelling at the photographer. He claimed to be press. He flashed some kind of ID (but too quickly to be read). It seemed invasive. But then he said something that almost made sense. He said that his photographs might even be useful to the victim. They could be proof of what had occurred. I have no idea what his motives were, but other than pissing off the nurse he caused no harm. I took no photos.

  49. @davidmonnerat February 16, 2010 at 11:22 am #

    it's an interesting dilemma and came up a lot over the past few months with people in haiti and such. i would like to think that if i could help and there was no one else around, i'd jump in…be a compassionate human first and a photographer second. if there were others around and i would either not be able to help or would be in the way, the camera would come out to capture the images document the events.

    i understand when folks say "omg, why didn't you put down the camera and help those people", i really do. but at the same time, we need to document these things that happen so that, in the case of haiti, others see what it's actually like over there and are encouraged or inspired to help. in those sorts of cases, that's exactly how the photographer can help most.

    that said, i also think there are people that hide behind the camera and some magical code of non-interference so that they can capture "the shot", which i think is really sad. it probably isn't for them, obviously, but at the end of my life, i'd rather not have an amazing, award-winning picture and regret not acting.

    besides, what if it was you that got hit by the car and some guy started taking pictures instead of helping you when you needed it? or your wife? or your kid? do unto others…

  50. Dan February 16, 2010 at 11:22 am #

    scrI was in a similar situation downtown Pittsburgh when i saw an old homeless man get run over by a city bus. There was plenty of people helping and i started shooting. The situation will probably stay with me till i kick the bucket but i am glad i got some shots off before the police attempted to detain me. Its a kind of hard question to answer. It doesn't make you evil if you choose to shoot of some pictures once the person is being taken care of. For me, taking pictures has become second nature. I just cant help it.

  51. Trudy February 16, 2010 at 11:22 am #

    Simply because we have the right to take photographs doesn’t mean that every photograph needs to be taken. You did the right thing. There is no reason to feel dirty for considering it though…as an artist and a storyteller, your mind will go there.

    I never blame a person for their thoughts or feelings. Thoughts and feelings are not up for judgment. Actions are though.

    Thanks for sharing this moment with us.

  52. marklegge February 16, 2010 at 11:23 am #

    I've wondered about this question long before I ever got into photography myself. Many years back, early 90's, me and a good friend of mine used to play amatuer football here in the UK… your kind of football, you know, helmets, shoulder pads, funny shaped ball and cheerleaders and that… anyway, on this one occasion my friend, a budding newbie photographer at the time, wasn't playing and had brought his gear to cover the game. One of our players, a receiver, jumped for a high ball, took a big hit while extended and fell awkwardly under a heap of players. He shattered his lower leg.. he lay there, screaming in agony, on the field while a group of players from both teams gathered round and the paramedics rushed to the spot. My frind took the opportunity to get close and 'document' the event. To say he was met with extreme hostility from the surrounding players is like saying the sun is kinda warm. What the injured player thought of it all I don't know, but I reckon someone photographing him was the least of his concerns at the time, but the others… well, it made it clear to me that a significant number of people find the notion of photographing people in distress highly distasteful…

    What would be interesting would be to ask those same players how they feel about photojournalists' and some of the images they come back with from warzones or famine or other such natural disaster struck places. Where do people draw the line?

    For what it's worth, I wouldn't have taken any photos either, even after doing all that I could to help beforehand. I guess the question is what kind of good will taking the photos do? Will there be any benefit to the victim or society if you do take them?

    Here's a question, if you were close enough in NY on 9/11/01, would you have photographed the events unfolding that morning? If no, there's your answer… but if yes, where's the line drawn for you?

  53. Amy Heiden February 16, 2010 at 11:23 am #

    My first reaction would definitely be to help. For me personally, times like these are not moments to even consider grabbing a camera. When everyone around you is trying to help in some manner (calling 911, talking to the injured man, etc.) I don't think it's appropriate to bust out the camera. I also don't consider myself a photojournalist and don't work for the media, so if I did, I may think differently.

    Photographing times of war is justified in my eyes because most photos are taken from a photojournalist perspective. If it is their job to document war, trauma, etc. they should do just that. They bring it to our attention, showing Americans what most don't get to see; the front line. I feel that is a completely different issue.

    I think you made the right choice not to photograph this.

  54. - Mike February 16, 2010 at 11:28 am #

    I heard Henry Cartier-benson speak in New York at PDN photo plus. He posed a similar question when he displayed his images from the Ted Kennedy assasination (I appologize if that is the wrong Kennedy, my US politics is limited). It was evident even decades after taking the pictures that he was quite emotional about the event, but his response was at this moment I have a job to do and a duty to record this history, tomorrow I mourn. I however don't think I'd be able to lift the camera, in a trauma like that, I believe there is more I can do for the victim to help them before paramedics arrive.

  55. Gabriel Diaz February 16, 2010 at 11:28 am #

    Thanks for the chance to discuss this point here.
    James Nachtwey said he recorded events that should not to be forgotten nor repeated. With all due respect, why not to focus more in events that should be repeated since it's kind the same effort to record that than to record the first….and there's no warranty won't be forgotten by the world community (ex. Rwuanda, Darfur…just recently) or the opportunity for the suffering to recur. Just a thought

  56. Kris February 16, 2010 at 11:30 am #

    You did the right thing considering that the family would probably like to keep it in the family. Besides the poor girl has got to feel horribly having hit her father while learning to parallel park. A difficult task to learn as I had a similar experience with a telephone pole and would have been mortified if someone had taken a photo of my misfortune.

    On the other hand there are times when I have seen injustices on the road and I wish that I did have my camera as drivers try to cover up what they have done, and or leave the scene.

  57. Sridhar February 16, 2010 at 11:30 am #

    I don't think personal tragedy should be photographed if the intent is only to take good pictures.
    Shooting war/trauma/tragedy is, IMO, only acceptable if you want to tell the world about it; in this case I don't think either the person behind or infront of the wheel want their story known by the whole world.

  58. N. Maxwell February 16, 2010 at 11:31 am #

    if it were me that got hit, i'd want someone to take the shots, cause i'd wanna see.

    they can always be deleted, but you'll never get another chance to take them.

  59. dmourati February 16, 2010 at 11:32 am #

    Good call. I could see shooting it if the driver was not cooperating.

  60. Andrew Berglund February 16, 2010 at 11:32 am #

    There are a lot of gruesome images in photojournalism. These images are important to our understanding of the world we live in. If there is injustice and brutality then surely we need to know about it in order to remedy it. Awareness is critical and it helps fortify human connections.

    In the case of the car accident, I see no reason to photograph this suffering man. What purpose would having this photo serve other than to later show it to him and remind him of the agony his daughter accidentally inflicted on him. How would we be better off seeing a picture of his suffering, other than to empathize and offer a quick prayer. (In this case written word evoked that same response without disrespecting or embarrassing the family involved in the accident.)

    If the image can serve a purpose, than I think it is justifiable and important. In the case of an isolated personal tragedy it only serves to expose another human being at a very vulnerable time.

  61. John February 16, 2010 at 11:32 am #

    The 1st and right thing to do is render help.

  62. Ken Kaminesky February 16, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    Like in so many cases the saying "discretion is the better part of valor" applies here.

    Don't shoot personal tragedies, especially if you are not a photojournalist. There are exceptions such as if the photo going public could help a good cause. This is where good judgment comes into play.

    Good on ya Chase for not shooting this and for helping a fellow human being in need.


  63. Darren Abate February 16, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    My rule for shooting negative situations has always been: If my help is not needed, then shoot. If my help is needed, then help until I am no longer needed, then shoot.

    My job is to come back with a shot, no matter what, but it should be done only after my humanitarian responsibilities have been fulfilled.

  64. Aaron February 16, 2010 at 11:34 am #

    I'm not a photo journalist for the local paper, and I'm not trying to get hired by one, so I don't shoot local personal tragedy. My ability to sell a picture shouldn't outweigh the personal pain/grief/hardship of another person.
    Reporting on a war is a different story… that is news that impacts all of our lives… a car accident does not, it's fodder for the 6:00 news and just doesn't need that attention, I can get interesting photos elsewhere.

  65. Chris Bishow Photography February 16, 2010 at 11:34 am #

    I'm a bit confused. What, exactly, was there to shoot? A guy writhing in pain? The look of horror on the girls face? For what? Why?
    As a paramedic, I have always been amazed at what people want to take photos of. Firefighters being heroes, sure. A building on fire, ok. Someones misfortune, no. That would make you paparazzi, not a photographer.
    I understand the instinct of wanting to take a photo, but I would hope that if that were me on the ground I wouldn't look over to see Chase Jarvis taking my photo.
    Thumbs up CJ

  66. Jeremiah February 16, 2010 at 11:34 am #

    I was faced with a very similar dilemma just a few short weeks ago. I was sent to Haiti to document what was taking place. To bring the story back to the people that can do something. I found myself in a place where morality and opportunity met in a very gray area. Both sides seemed darker than the other. I believe it ends with a heart motive. This is a question each person has to ask at the very moment the opportunity, or moral confliction occurs. If I feel I am shooting under a "Paparazzi" mentality, no offense to anyone, please, but I would rather burn my camera. Will the photo actually help someone, anyone, other than ourself.

  67. cat February 16, 2010 at 11:37 am #

    Great question. I think every photog has struggled with this.

    I wanted to document with photos the short lived struggle my BIL went through after being diagnosed with ALS, but I couldn't. I felt sure he wouldn't be ok with it, first and foremost, even though I could've done it very tastefully, but there was that thing that said, no, don't do it, not even discreetly.

    I think the heart knows, it speaks from the gut. Maybe it's knowing the difference between fear and integrity that matters.

    I asked my family if they minded if I shot the memorial service. Not surprisingly, they actually wanted me to.

    Your shot, post accident, I think, is document enough.

  68. JJulian February 16, 2010 at 11:38 am #

    I had a quite a few times last week while in Haiti on a relief trip where I wanted to capture a shot but couldn't bring myself to lift the camera. Some times is was people outside their homes that were destroyed or a scared orphan. I was able to capture some other compelling shots and quickly forgot about the others.

  69. Neill Watson February 16, 2010 at 11:40 am #

    I've worked alongside HEMS air ambulance crews here in the UK. The deal is they have total veto on the work, no visible faces of victims etc.
    Was shooting an incident where a 37 year old woman collapsed when out hiking and the helicopter was called in.
    Despite the best efforts of the crew, she died at the scene. I'd been shooting images until that point, then the doctor turned to her husband….
    I put the camera away.

  70. Jerry Deese February 16, 2010 at 11:42 am #

    I was faced with a similar decision last year. My wife arrived home from work at around 2 in the morning, and when she woke me, she was in a panic. One of our neighbor's houses was on fire. And by fire, I mean engulfed in flames. We quickly ran to make sure people had gotten out, and then went to warn the other neighbors who lived close enough to be in danger.

    The thought hit me to grab my camera. I quickly dismissed it. It was far too heartwrenching to watcn someone's lifetime of belongings go up in flames.

  71. D. Travis North February 16, 2010 at 11:43 am #

    It depends on the scenario. In this case – one that was clearly an accident of a driving lesson – I wouldn't shoot. But if it were the result of a bad intersection desperately in need of some preventative measures, or the result of drunk driving…the photo is education.

    As I often do in such discussions, I default to the cases of Stanley J. Foreman's photo of a woman and girl falling from a fire escape (Pulitzer Prize, 1976 – the woman died) or Kevin Carter's photo of a starving Sudanese girl stalked by a vulture (Pulitzer prize, 1993). As horrible as both personal tragedies might be, both led to the education of people who were able to help make a change. Foreman's photo helped lead to improved fire escape safety standards in Boston. Carter's photo became the poster child for foreign aid for Sudan's famine. Both photos potentially aided in helping millions of people. It's the classic scenario of letting one child die in your presence to potentially save millions you will never meet.

    That said, it ultimately comes down to what you – as the photographer – can deal with emotionally. In the case of Kevin Carter's photo: Though it potentially helped make an incredible change, Carter later committed suicide, troubled by his insensitive ability to take the photo. I personally would have trouble capturing such images…so I wouldn't be able to take the picture, unless it was something that impacted me personally.

  72. joe scozzari February 16, 2010 at 11:43 am #

    to me, this is not a photo op for numerous reasons,
    A. its not news, the people do not need to know about this, what purpose would I serve taking pictures in this situation.
    B. i personally do not do this type of photography in general, i have lowered my camera in many situations due to my perceiving someone in personal pain having a PERSONAL moment that just so happens to be in a public place. sometimes these are moments that are or could be considered news and something that for various reasons should be reported, i simply choose not to. i would make exceptions to this if i felt that the story needed to be told due to it being unknown and that shining a light on it could change things in the future.

    in any situation it is most important to help first and shoot later. my first duty is to humanity, if you would take a picture of human suffering under the guise of telling the story (that is under the guise of it being the humanitarian thing to do) you must first always act to preserve life and ease suffering in the present, then concern yourself with the future (getting the story out with the shot)

    should you consider it? consideration is not wrong, you acted as you felt you should and i believe you were right

  73. Evan Rogers February 16, 2010 at 11:44 am #

    Your job was to help at that moment.

    If you were deployed or embedded in a war zone your job would be to take the photos. War zone photojournalists put their heads down, pick up guns, and provide first aid.

    You did the right thing. I like what NCF said "If I can help, help. If I cannot, shoot."

  74. David February 16, 2010 at 11:44 am #

    What a lot of interest that tricky little question caused. Clearly rendering physical assistance is the #1 priority and defines you as human. After that I guess it is down to whether any picture would be simply invasive and ghoulish in a personal tragedy situation or whether you can do any good by taking it. Like war photographers. I guess there is no good to come from this, no wider lesson to be broadcast and learned, so any picture of this sort of scene is invasive of personal privacy for no good reason and you were 100% correct in not recording the unfortunate incident

  75. Anonymous February 16, 2010 at 11:47 am #

    I read somewhere that you need to ask the injured person if they want help.

    The reason for this is b/c a man that was helping got sued by the man that was injured b/c in the process of helping, he paralized the injured man.

    You're not supposed to move injured people. Just food for thought.

  76. cdelphine February 16, 2010 at 11:48 am #

    oh wow, that's horrible. I think you made the right decision because as others have mentioned, there was no benefit to taking photos. It's like how in psychology when evaluating the ethics of an experiment you take into account the potential gain and the potential harm.

    On a personal level, there's no way that I could have been shooting during that.

  77. StudioBokeh February 16, 2010 at 11:48 am #

    I´m not very sure, but I remember a great video about the same question.

  78. Anonymous February 16, 2010 at 11:48 am #

    I once shot a rescue scene on the beach. I did not knowing exactly what was going on. Later when I found out that a 12 year old boy drowned, I deleted the pictures. I am not comfortable taking shots of people's pain or loss.

  79. Donna February 16, 2010 at 11:50 am #

    Years ago, when working as a press photographer, this was almost a daily question. I had to shoot or find another job. Image the horror of being on the scene of many car accidents and seeing the hurt of faces. I felt that if the picture that I took could in any way stop just one person from say driving drunk, it was worth printing. To take the photo just to have, is not worth a paper memory.

  80. Brian February 16, 2010 at 11:53 am #

    wow.. a scary thing to witness

    quite honestly.. taking a photo probably would have been the last thing on my mind. I'd be in too much shock to think that clearly.

  81. Richard February 16, 2010 at 11:54 am #

    I'd agree with the people that say help first, shoot second – or if your help is not needed then shoot straight away. The ethics come in to play more at publishing. In a recent car "accident" that I would call "manslaughter" here in Kelowna, BC a senior crossing on a green signal was mown down and killed by a kid in a truck. The publication of graphic photos was criticized, but I agreed with the principal of shock tactics – hopefully shocking some bad drivers in to taking more care – if only at that particular (dangerous) intersection.

    In this case – would publication serve the greater good?

  82. Francesco B. February 16, 2010 at 11:58 am #

    Chase, I think you did the right thing, considering there are people out there that would've just walked away, without giving any help at all.
    I understand that "feeling dirty" about even thinking of taking a picture in such a situation, i've been through that, and like you, I didn't shoot because I simply couldn't, the thought of it barely crossed my mind (and I felt "guilty" about it).

    I've been on the other side of the fence, though, and I have to say that after a serious car crash, when you're 1) bleeding, 2) worried about the safety/life of the people with you (in my case, my mother and my brother), and 3) in a state of shock, you don't give a damn about someone talking a picture of you, you're lucky if you can remember who pulled you out of the car and later thank him/her.

    I don't think there's a general "rule" about it all, it depends on the guy with the camera, on the subject, on the overall situation, etc, and I'm sure a photojournalist would give a better answer than me (is there an answer at all among my words?). I admire those who are struggling and trying to deal with these ethical issues all the time, and I'm pretty sure it puts a lot of stress on them (I'm thinking, for instance, about the ones who took the first flight to Haiti after the earthquake, and there are many articles about the ethical issues of witnessing and documenting such a huge tragedy), on the other hand I'm afraid there are some who deal with those situation as scavengers, not caring about their subjects at all.

  83. Chase Jarvis February 16, 2010 at 11:58 am #

    I understand that eddie adams shooting the image that, arguably, started the end of the vietnam war is one thing. a man getting executed was much more horrible than this car-pedestrian accident. so here we are faced with it being more noble to photograph the more horrible moment. is the car-pedestrian accident not something appropriate for photographing because it has less impact on the world?


  84. Brian Palmer Photography February 16, 2010 at 12:00 pm #

    Oh man Chase, I feel you here! I was sitting at the house once and heard a engine rev, I just up to see a motocycle popping a wheelie and then instantly slam into a parked car. Just as quickly the driver helmetless with a T-shirt went flying through the air landed with a thug and a roll. I ran out to see if he was 'alive' for the most part. Phone to my ear while talking to 911 I thought for a second…I should get my camera or use the one on my phone… but I quickly buried that thought and was even justifying it by thinking it would document the scene. While I know photograph and take video of accidents, I was just too concerned with his well-being to want to capture that moment for any reason. Of course this all depends on the situation, maybe if the accident wasn't so bad I would have took some captures.

  85. James Wm. Dawson February 16, 2010 at 12:02 pm #

    Certainly would help first as much as I could, but nah I won't be comfortable photographing someone in misery like this. It would be different if my job was photojournalism, but not as someone walking around with a camera. Just not me.

  86. Duane February 16, 2010 at 12:03 pm #

    Okay, I haven't read the comments yet so maybe someone else has already said this but…

    Dude, you're a commercial photographer not a photojournalist… Unless you planned on submitting the images for "news" then there is no point to take the shot…

  87. Nicholas Critelli February 16, 2010 at 12:06 pm #

    You weren't working a job. You were, as someone else put it, a first responder. Your responsibility as a human being is to give some measure of aid or comfort first.
    It is possible that had you taken pictures, they may have served some purpose in court, or been newsworthy is some way. However, this isn't a war, a gang shooting, or a even hit and run. Just another person in need of assistance.
    Good call. Be a good human being first. Be a good photographer second.

  88. Anonymous February 16, 2010 at 12:10 pm #

    If it would save a life – drop the camera. If it provides aid and comfort where none exists – drop the camera. But if your involvement cannot save a life or ease the pain, and the location is a public place, then what's stopping you from capturing the moment – nothing but your personal ethics.

  89. Dade F February 16, 2010 at 12:10 pm #

    Its not part of you, if it was it wouldnt be a question.

    You have to consider your motives, my answer would be NO, but if I were a photojournalist then maybe that would be different.

    Would you real feel better having the images?

  90. Steve Kalman February 16, 2010 at 12:12 pm #

    My take on this is similar to a few other commenters.

    Take pictures to do good.

    Mostly, that's to make an image of something that pleases people, such as a landscape or portrait.

    In a situation such as yours (and after the people safety issues are dealt with) I'd shoot if the images could help someone. In a different scenario, perhaps for insurance or litigation purposes. ("Good Samaritan" laws in many places protect those giving assistance, even if their techniques are flawed. That's not true everywhere, so documentation might help.)

    Taking images for shock value is on the wrong side of a line I don't care to cross, and from your posting, it seems you don't either.

    That said, we each have to do our own evaluation. Those commenters who said shoot-shoot-shoot are just as correct (for them) as those of us who would choose to leave the camera in the bag/pocket.

  91. kyle February 16, 2010 at 12:20 pm #

    If i was there I would probably have started shooting as soon as i knew help was on its way because to be honest there was nothing more that you could have done. Maybe I'm just a really terrible person.

  92. Shawn Chamberlin February 16, 2010 at 12:20 pm #

    thats a great awy of looking at it. as photographers we are always tempted to shoot, whether some find it to be a good idea or not (ethical). obviously theres a fine line between the two, obviously you have to be a human being first. it would definitely be wrong to start snapping, instead of helping out the guy who'd just been run down. at the same time, you have to look at james nachtwey, who shoots wars. some many think he probably shouldn't be photographing while put in these situtations, but he's done some amazing work.

    shawn chamberlin

  93. crossmage February 16, 2010 at 12:22 pm #

    I agree with the idea of being a human first and a photographer second.

    But I also know that I have shot a wreck after the fact because shooting something is part of how I come to terms with it it and how I process it. Witnessing a traumatic event is also a trauma – and for me, photography is part of how I care for myself through traumatic events.

    Just a viewpoint I hadn't seen echoed in the other comments.

  94. Dan February 16, 2010 at 12:23 pm #

    Serve you fellow man in the best way you can. Sticking a camera in the face of a bleeding man when you could be helping is not the best way. Documenting a man being beaten by a regiem is certainly serving others..

  95. ClovenLife February 16, 2010 at 12:24 pm #

    Without a second though I would have. You can never know what the outcome of that photo could end up being.. Maybe its used to illustrate first responders, crowd reaction or lack there of.. connected to a campaign to promote good samaritans. Now its an opportunity lost. That moment in time is lost. You're ability as an artist to amplify and direct the emotion of that event unused.. Maybe some kid got a pic or video with his cell.. but it wouldn't portray what happened anywhere close to what you could of.

  96. Maskido February 16, 2010 at 12:25 pm #

    Your first instincts were right. Feel dirty. You're not in a war zone, your not on assignment. You are a bystander there to lend a hand. A good samaritan. In this situation you have two patients; the man struck and the daughter. Both have to be tended to; one medically, the other with kind words and an a hug. The camera would only serve to comfort the one wielding it; as it is in this case, comforting you having witnessed a traumatic event. But that's just me. Take care. –M

  97. Anonymous February 16, 2010 at 12:29 pm #

    As a photo journalist who is also trained as a Paramedic I have been in such situations numerous times.
    My approach is to help (medically) to the best of my ability till an equal or higher level of care arrives on scene at which time if there is reason to I will switch into Photo Journalist mode.
    If I arrive on scene after paramedics are on scene I would go strait to covering the story of the accident with the only exception to this being a very bad mass casualty incident.

  98. walljm February 16, 2010 at 12:29 pm #

    With photojournalism (especially in the case of war and such) the pictures have a purpose that ostensibly benefits mankind somehow. Those who recommend making sure your prioritize the needs of the individuals in question are correct. But afterward, when you aren't needed for anything else, if it were myself, I would be asking what i am using the photos for, and does that purpose help or hurt the individual in question.

    Sometimes, the documentation of human misery for its own sake is exploitative, almost an affront to the individuals suffering. That I might want to profit from their misery feels wrong.

    But, if I am documenting human misery because it needs documenting (e.g. the ravages of war, when exposed, could help prevent such ravages by engendering empathy) or because by documenting i do something good, then that feels ethical to me.

    It would be interesting to me to have a discussion on the valid uses for pictures that document suffering, when is it unhelpful, and when is it beneficial.

  99. Anonymous February 16, 2010 at 12:33 pm #

    I would say live the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

  100. michaellacombe February 16, 2010 at 12:45 pm #

    I think it depends on how much you care about what other people will think of you. If you're a journalist called onto the scene, of course you're going to want to shoot! But you're a random passerby. If you assist the man, see he's OK, then proceed to break out a camera with a giant lens and photograph him in such a vulnerable state – you just look like a dick who is exploiting a horrible situation in order to satisfy his own morbid desires. If that doesn't bother you, then by all means, shoot away. lol

    I generally don't care what people think about me, but I mean, honestly, if you shoot, is it for some reason OTHER than just wanting to have pictures of something tragic? Would you sell them to someone else? Would you post them online to satisfy OTHER people's fascination with tragedy? Would one be masking these desires by pretending they're shooting out of some obligation to photography? "Hey, I had to! I'm a photographer!" I think so. Just my 3 cents (I always seem to provide a little more than just 2 cents).

  101. Bettie February 16, 2010 at 12:47 pm #

    Under such tragic and distressing circumstances, simply your calm presence could still be a comfort. Also you might be able to assist under instruction, such as holding, fetching, carrying, etc.

    Bias your decision on the side of not shooting.

    Shoot, discreetly, only if absolutely sure that doing so would not risk distraction, loss of your assistance (emotional or practical) or upset of any kind.

    From what you have said, you already knew these things and acted accordingly.

    Well done. Bless you.

  102. Javier February 16, 2010 at 12:48 pm #

    This is not about what I would do or think you should do, I think the point is what consequence our actions have on our character and how they make us feel about ourselves, shoot or not shoot? I think you already know the answer, you get emotionally involved with your images and models, you are a sharing type of guy, and I don't think you get detached from what you see and shut your empathy down…
    The one who shoots?
    Is that you?

  103. Anonymous February 16, 2010 at 12:50 pm #

    See "This American Life" episode 4 (I believe) of Season One, called "The Cameraman".

  104. Robert February 16, 2010 at 12:50 pm #

    If the guy isn't some high-profile politician and the girl isn't a Disney actress (just examples) the photos wouldn't be really newsworthy, I guess.

    So no reason to shoot, I would say.

  105. Kathryn Lymburner February 16, 2010 at 12:52 pm #

    Good choice Chase…sometimes it's best to not reach for the camera.

    I was working a wedding in the summer where the groom's niece had her sari go up in flames from a low standing candle. The flames went up her arm and it was very scary for a few minutes. Other than having her wits scared out of her and a minor burn on her hand, she was fine. I didn't shoot anything during that situation and waited until everyone had calmed down again.

    It wasn't until I saw that the groom was wiping the tears from his niece's eyes and that she was giving him a smile back that I raised my camera planning to catch a tender moment between family members.

    I've never had so many people scream, yell and admonish me for trying to take a picture. It was like I had been swarmed by seagulls!

    I apologized immediately, explained there had been a tender moment that I felt needed capturing, but that I had not taken any photos. Then I quickly left the room to let everyone, self included, cool down.

    Lesson? Sometimes it's best to let even happy outcomes go undocumented.

  106. John H. Maw February 16, 2010 at 12:53 pm #

    It's not just a moral issue. It's a personal moral issue. You didn't shoot and that was right for you and you knew that. Your instinct told you. In different circumstances you might know that the importance of other people seeing something would be such that the picture would have to be taken, but that would be a different situation. From what you describe in this case there was no greater message that needed to be shown. Just a personal story that needed to stay with the people directly involved and you were clearly sensitive to that. A good point well made.

    All the best.


  107. Troy Breidenbach February 16, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

    I guess I feel like if there is not a newsworthy or art-worthy reason, then why shoot it.

  108. Schill February 16, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

    This is an interesting post due to what has happened in the news as of recent and I feel it's related. The Georgian Luger who passed while doing his practice run was caught on film during his accident. Now if that were me, I would never dream of showing a video of this man's death on the news let alone over & over. This has even become an issue on Youtube, people showing this video in order to get more views which we all know in Youtube land (views=money).

    This isn't the only instance of this.

  109. Ross Hall February 16, 2010 at 1:00 pm #

    If the casualty is stable go for the shot. Two reasons: first you're a photographer and this is what you do;

    Second: you've got a record of the immediate aftermath of the incident which can be useful in other ways.

    Don't antagonise, don't cause further distress, but document.

  110. Anonymous February 16, 2010 at 1:01 pm #

    I read both your recent blog post and an article on the Iranian Neda within a minute of each other and I still don't have THE answer. "Long Island University said the George Polk Award for Videography for 2009 would recognize the "efforts of the people responsible" for recording the death of 26-year-old Neda Agha-Soltan and uploading the footage to the Internet."

  111. Bottle Bell Photography February 16, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

    you unequivocally did the right thing. Without humanity in our hearts, why bother shooting humanity at all?

    Even if one cannot provide (as the first comment states) professional medical care, think of the solace you can bring by comforting instead of exploiting to a situation that's already so intensely horrifying for someone who may be dying.

    I've been to this in my head and read others remark about it. Something with picking up a camera (and don't feel guilty about it) brings us into almost a responsibility that we need – WE MUST! relay a message in every circumstance, because not only do we know how, but it's our passion and responsibilty to do so. It's the responsibility to document that muffles a moral line.

    It's in every facet of the industry that propels us. Do we put a model into the freezing water 1 minute past the time she's clearly freezing to get the shot? Or…Does a 3rd world war photog. help or document during genocide…

    But again, I think if we all assess beyond the pomp of this industry and every seriously blurred line why we picked up a camera and became photographers to begin with, it's rather clear that it was the beauty in something and not the ugly that made us want to capture with a camera, however far we've strayed in style and message from that time.

    And I think the beautiful thing about that, all in all, is that we can take that desire to capture beauty and let the camera for once remind US what to do with it.

  112. Forest February 16, 2010 at 1:05 pm #

    We are all have more to offer than our skill as 'photographers'. In this sort of situation we react instinctively, drawing upon whatever skill we have that seems most appropriate. Is it our medical training (however basic)? our power to document with the camera? a helping hand and a calming presence? I think following your gut was right – what could you have changed with a photo? what would you have wanted someone to do for you in that situation?

    The paradox of it being "more noble to photograph the more horrible moment" is a strange one. It seems to me, that in these 'horrific' situations it takes a very strong person to go against their instinct to help, and to instead stay behind their camera in the hope of capturing an image that can affect a more lasting change – as opposed to a temporary relief of one person's suffering. There's a reason that really good photo-journalists are such a rare breed; few of us can suppress that basic instinct to step in, and to distinguish between when we should help, and when something is sufficiently 'horrific' for there to be 'nobility' or a 'greater good' in our capture of it.

  113. mathewm February 16, 2010 at 1:06 pm #

    this is one of those situations where you have to think about the relevance of the event. personally relevant to the man and his daughter? absolutely. relevant to the public? absolutely not.

    if this were, say, a drunken police officer hitting someone with his cruiser, then that situation may be relevant to the public and as a photojournalist you may consider it your duty to report the event as you see it. or not. it'd be all up to you as to whether or not the victim's right to privacy holds greater importance than the public's right to know that their police officers are doing things like this.

    in any situation, you should probably go with "if you have to ask, you already know the answer is no"

  114. jr cline February 16, 2010 at 1:14 pm #

    I decide as I go. I took photos of a man putting out a burning car to safe a baby in the back seat. I couldn't have helped him or the baby so I took the photos.
    I had my camera with me at the moment of my father's death, but I was so involved in them moment that I didn't take photos for at least an hour. After that I chronicled hours and hours of the experience. I posted many of them on twitter as they occurred.
    Same when my mom died two weeks later.

  115. Bottle Bell Photography February 16, 2010 at 1:15 pm #

    And further in reading these comments of photogs speaking about how it takes a 'stronger' more 'courageous' person to not help so that we can affect the 'greater good' by documenting something that 'lasts longer as a message'. What message would that really be if the photographer, themself, is perrpetuating the need for such a message to be conveyed in the first place by not helping. It would be complete hypocrisy.

  116. Torsten February 16, 2010 at 1:19 pm #

    Even one of the best War Photographers in the world James Nachtwey had let down his camera a few times to help people.

    I think you know by yourself in that special moment if you can shoot or not.


  117. Gary Christy February 16, 2010 at 1:20 pm #

    Chase, The decision not to take a photo in this situation was best.

    You were first responder on the scene. The immediate call to 911 and caring for the man until professional help arrived did more for the man and his daughter than you may realize.

    As a photographer myself I document events as they happen sometimes only having seconds to capture the intended image however your instinct to help the injured man was more important.

    I admire your work as a photographer and appreciate your character in this situation.

    I wish you continued success in your photography endeavors.


    Gary Christy
    Life Through Lenses Photography

  118. Anonymous February 16, 2010 at 1:23 pm #

    I am not a cold hearted person, I agree with the comment made that it makes people feel dirty shooting an incident like this. However, I am a forensic photographer when I am back home in my Native New Zealand, This type of incident is my job, I am blessed to be a photographer and lucky to be able to travel internationally on a regular basis to photograph various assignments. I still feel something is not right in what I am doing, right in the pit of my stomach but evidence needs to be collected and there comes a time when you must shoot what is considered to be in bad taste under normal circumstances.
    If I wasn’t in this position of paid employment by our local "Sheriffs Department" then I will admit there are times to keep the lens cap on. I feel for the young driver, and how her reaction would be with a photog being right there at her families time of stress and grief.

  119. Andrew M. Annuar February 16, 2010 at 1:33 pm #

    Human first; photog later.

  120. Christopher J Schiller February 16, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    I'm actually surprised at how many people have said no, or no based on the fact that they personally wouldn't.

    Yet, newspapers, magazines and websites are constantly showing the aftermath of accidents, disasters or war. Haiti comes to mind, some of the images from there were disturbing.

    But nobody was really saying how bad it was to show. Is that because it's a different culture, almost a world away? Would it be acceptable if the driver was going on a crazy, destructive spree and Chase had Reuters credentials around his neck?

    I agree with helping first, but the idea of not ever shooting an event like this seems almost hypocritical.

  121. Anonymous February 16, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    shoot. always.

  122. Chris February 16, 2010 at 1:36 pm #

    Always take the picture. Its only a split second while on your way to help. You can't go shoot it again later if you have to…

    In the end, if the image isn't required for anything, then trash it. No worries.

    If I told my editor that I was at a scene, and didn't get a shot, he'd kick my ass!

  123. Crystal February 16, 2010 at 1:41 pm #

    I'm not a news photographer, I don't want to be "that shot" in someone else's portfolio, so I don't take it, regardless of what it is, or how 'good' it would be.

    If I was a documentary, news or war photographer, I might feel differently if it was something that could do good, but an accident scene doesn't fall into that category.

  124. Photos By Troy February 16, 2010 at 1:59 pm #

    I think if you have a camera and you are a photographer you have the obligation to to make photos. It's part of life. I've seen some of the most life changing photos of the very thing you have seen. It's a gift to those of us that were not that. Life is not all pretty. 911 was called, give help, take photos, if you are a photographer. Don't need top put them on every flickr page but you do need to take photos, is this even a question? It's the very heart of my being.

  125. Jim Wilson February 16, 2010 at 2:00 pm #

    I try to balance both. I'm trained as an EMT, and volunteer in international development. I just returned from an HIV/AIDS/children at risk project. I carried my EMT bag in case I saw a need to help; when there's a need, camera always gets set aside and I do what I can. Ditto at bike races. — Jim

  126. Jason Collin Photography February 16, 2010 at 2:03 pm #

    Tough call…since you were already on the scene and helping the man, I think the time for photography had passed. If somehow you had your camera pointed at the accident as it was happening and it happened to come into your frame, then photographing them would seem to be ok ethically, but once already engaged in helping the person and the scene was interrupted by that act, I wonder what would there be to photograph anyway? And what would you do with those photographs?

    Perhaps just a photograph of the damaged cars.

    Chase how are you feeling after witnessing that accident a day after? How long will it take you to process that in your system? Will you post updates on the man's condition?

    Poor daughter too, her mind must be snapping.

  127. Mike February 16, 2010 at 2:04 pm #

    There's no right or wrong answer here that fits any scenario. The decision you made was to not shoot, and for you that's the right decision. There are tons of news shooters who would have shot this, as the comments suggest, but would walk right past many beautiful scenes that you have shot, and do so without a moment's notice.

    Why, then, can one judge you for not shooting a photo that he feels is photo worthy? That would be the same as you judging someone for not shooting what you feel is photo worthy.

    Photographer's have their own vision, that's what makes this art great. If you didn't see a shot, or feel that you could make the shot, then that decision (which is yours, and yours alone) was correct.

  128. Anonymous February 16, 2010 at 2:06 pm #

    I think in some cases we have to use the camera that we have, especially if we feel that it is really important and might help the victim in the long run.

  129. Venu February 16, 2010 at 2:08 pm #

    I say i only shoot stuff that wont interrupt my sleep. If i shoot a bad thing(relative), i will feel guilty and blame my self for next 10-15 years. So id rather avoid shooting such stuff.

  130. Kevin Bair February 16, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

    I'd never shoot anyone that I feel would be inappropriate if the roles were reversed … that is, if I was the one being photographed.

  131. Anonymous February 16, 2010 at 2:21 pm #

    One of the reasons why I don't watch the local news anymore is because the only thing that gets headlines is when someone gets shot, stabbed, killed, beaten up, or there has been accidents, someone arrested, or the weather. It's getting to be really sad in our world when these types of things get headlines. Yes they happen, but do we really need to shoot it? Even if shot, does it need to be tweeted, facebooked, broadcast, everywhere? IMO, it does not. Let's get back to helping one another and showing that on the news. Too bad that the advertisers won't spend their money for that type of programming.

  132. Matt February 16, 2010 at 2:40 pm #

    I'm glad you guys were right there to help! I hope the man will make a full recovery.

    My dad had a stroke a little while back now, and even being his son, the thought of taking a photo of the ambulances or him being airlifted ran through my mind a few times. I knew he would've loved seeing what all he went through (after the fact, he did agree that he would've liked seeing what happened. Haha…).

    But to be honest, if it's real personal like that, and/or if I have an opportunity to help the situation, I will never reach for my camera. And if the are serious injuries (or worse), it's even more reason for me to keep my finger off the shutter.

  133. Paul Pratt February 16, 2010 at 2:44 pm #

    I say don't shoot. This is an unfortunate incident that just doesn't need to be document. The guy won't want to remember it and neither will his daughter.

    It's not a headline news event in that it doesn't and shouldn't concern the general public.

    Now, if for example you were documenting the illness of a loved one with their permission then that is a valid project to shoot but again, how suitable that is for a mass audience I don't know.

  134. Ron February 16, 2010 at 2:46 pm #

    Helping should always be the top priority. In a situation such as this that is incredible personal – one person hurt and bound to be on the news – respecting privacy and dignity should trump take a photograph. Just the idea of someone taking photos at a time like that can cause so much stress to the family. No one knows how you will use them.

  135. Bluestill February 16, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

    Once in NYC I saw a woman on a bicycle get anialated by a city bus. My first instinct was to grab for my camera. Due to the number of people already crowding the scene my first instinct was to raise my camera. My girlfriend freaked out. I don't know why, but I feel that sometimes life is not full of daisies and cumulous clouds. The 1000 words of the silent stories must also be photographed. I have photos from my military deployment in Mogadishu Somalia on October 3, 1993 that I will never share or show as well, but I shoot what my eyes see. It's not about right or wrong, it's about judgement call and tact respectfully.

  136. Kari Post February 16, 2010 at 2:51 pm #

    I think you did the right thing. An accident such as this one is so personal and intimate. It's not the same as war or a natural disaster, where the photographs taken illustrate an event important to mankind. It's not even the same as a drunk driving accident. There's no "big message" that a photograph could convey. It was an accident and a girl may have killed or permanently disabled her own loving father only trying to help her. Is it important to have photographs to document what happened? Not really. The man and his daughter are not going to want reminders of the incident, and there wouldn't even be a legal use for the images, since I doubt the father is going to sue his daughter. As Rescue Monkey said, this is a personal tragedy, and I believe the privacy of those involved should be respected. I think taking photographs in a situation like this one would be incredibly insensitive, and if I were one of those involved, seeing someone taking photos of my misfortune would only make me more upset. You did the right thing by helping and not taking pictures.

  137. Tom Scott February 16, 2010 at 2:58 pm #

    The first thing to realise is that you have to assist if you can, which you did.

    For me the photograhy side of the dilemma comes more down to the use of the images than taking the pictures.

    You could take the pictures and never show them to anyone, or they could be presented for whatever purpose afterwards.

    What I'm saying is that in the post-shock of the event its very raw (no pun intended) but further down the line these images may form part of some archive that we are yet to see merit in.


  138. Jeff Shaw February 16, 2010 at 3:01 pm #

    I am so glad to see the amount of people who have actually thought about and care about situations like these. In my opinion, putting the people first was definitely the right thing to do and you should know that beyond my respect for your photography business and skills, you have definitely earned my respect as a person.
    I have often thought about situations like yours as I'm a missionary and yet a photographer. Here's a real quick example of what can take place when someone puts the image before the person…
    A fellow missionary shared with me a personal experience that he had during the Mozambique floods in 2000. He was living there at the time of the floods and as people we brought in after being stranded for several days or weeks without food and help, he witnessed a camera man run up to a helicopter with his camera and follow the journey of one eldery man as he fell out of the helicopter and began to crawl toward help. My friend was racing to help the man but as the cameraman followed, the man collapsed and died before he could reach anyone. That was ten years ago and my friend still has a hard time dealing with the emotions of it. From that point on the missionaries at his station did everything they could to keep the journalists and camera's out of their space and those relationships were forever damaged. He may have gotten one shot, but he lost so many more stories. Just something to think about.

  139. NYCIC February 16, 2010 at 3:04 pm #

    I would not have photographed the victim. What good would it have done? The story, if you will, was the daughter-driver. Her horror at realizing what had occurred. That mishap, which might have resulted in the death of her father, will haunt her forever. That would have been a moment worth capturing.

  140. Phil February 16, 2010 at 3:05 pm #

    I think everyone agrees if you can help put the camera down. Another thing to consider is the crowd at the scene. My wife was shooting a nurse treating an accident victim, a person in the crowd physically attacked her.

  141. John Leonard Photography February 16, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    Yo know Bill Genaust had to put down the movie camera and pick-up a rifle while on Iwo Jima. Do what you have to do to help, but after that I say shoot. I once faced the same thing, sort of, while shooting some portraits for a family their neighbors house caught fire. After I was sure everyone was out of the house I started to shoot. The images were not so great but one ( with the wife collapsed in the street crying really struck a cord. The pictures made the news, and ultimately the donations poured in to the family including a new house rent free for a year. You never know what your images may achieve after the fact. If you don't shoot you'll never know. If you do shoot you can decide what to do with them later, including never showing them.

  142. Klukowski February 16, 2010 at 3:27 pm #

    Hard to answer your question. On one hand it's good to document. But also depends on your code of ethics. Could you tell war photographers to drop their equipment and join the infantry?

  143. Ollie February 16, 2010 at 3:27 pm #

    Without photography their would be no evidence of such an occurrence. Id shoot, but ask permission after to display the images and then make sure i didnt earn a profit off of it.

  144. abbyroadme February 16, 2010 at 3:38 pm #

    My rule if it invades personal space/situation, might not be a good idea. If it was your own accident, yes for documentation. Otherwise, like other said, if you have to ask…no.

  145. Lou February 16, 2010 at 3:40 pm #

    Interesting situation that I've faced only once. Last year, while driving home from the office, I came upon a situation that involved EMT's, a fire engine, police cars and officers. It was on a busy public street and I pulled over so I could shoot. The victim, a male, had been cycling on sidewalk and was struck by a car exiting a shopping center; the driver, looking the opposite direction in order to make sure the road was clear, never saw him. The cyclist was pinned under the car and the emergency responders were working feverishly to free him.

    I shot, knowing I could do nothing. The victim's face was not included in any shot. Fortunately he was freed and survived, with minimal injuries.

    If I'd been first on the scene, I'd have done everything to help and would've left the camera alone.

  146. Luis Alejandro Ontiveros February 16, 2010 at 3:44 pm #

    Ok, shoot or not shoot is one thing, show it or not to public is other, here is where the Photographer becomes a Professional

  147. kangster February 16, 2010 at 3:44 pm #

    I'm not a photojournalist so, no, I would not have taken pictures. You did the right thing. Plus, if you really wanted to, you could recreate the scene easily using "movie magic" and first hand knowledge. I don't see the point in documenting the real thing.

  148. Mike Wood February 16, 2010 at 3:47 pm #

    I think there is a big difference between being a photojournalist on the clock and a bystander photographer such as yourself. Having said that, even the professional journalists in Haiti -Anderson cooper and rescuing the kid in the food riot thing that happened – have a tough time navigating the line between documenting the story or being part of the story.

    You did the right thing. Poor kid who could be as traumatized as her father in her own way.

    And I am not into arguing whether Cooper is a real journalist or a blow dry'd talking head. Just an example.

  149. shawnpix February 16, 2010 at 3:48 pm #

    I had something similar happen to me recently. I came out of a subway stop in NY to a woman double over and bleeding heavily from her stomach area. Others had reached the woman before I did and someone said she had been stabbed.

    My instincts to help kicked in. I started to try to find the wound after hearing that someone had already called 911. I was going to put pressure on the wound to help stop the bleeding. The woman was of Asian decent and spoke no English, making it harder for us to know exactly what had happened.

    I couldn't find a wound, even after lifting the woman's top and opening up her pants. It became clear to me that there was no stab wound and that something else was going on. I fear she was having a miscarriage. Another woman standing nearby said she noticed the woman was wearing a pad (me being a guy didn't notice that right away), which pretty much confirmed my fears. After a few minutes and still no site of help, I called 911 myself to make sure they were on their way and heading to the proper location (I knew the address).

    A few more minutes later help finally arrived. I filled them in on the info that she had not been stabbed and what we believed the situation was. They used hand gestures to communicate and confirmed she was pregnant and loaded her into the ambulance. I didn't get any info from them about where she was being taken or anything. I have no idea what happened to this unfortunate woman. It was heartbreaking and I still dread going to that subway stop.

    As for the debate, I could have easily photographed the situation as I was on my way to photograph a job, but I no longer work in the newspaper industry and saw no real reason for my intrusion into such a private crisis.

    I feel I made the right decision. Different circumstances might have made for different decisions. I feel you too, Chase, have made the decision that was right for you at that time. My thanks to you for being a stand up citizen and helping as best as you could.

  150. wirehunt February 16, 2010 at 4:01 pm #

    If it doesn't feel right don't do it. It really is that simple.

  151. Scott MacKenzie February 16, 2010 at 4:05 pm #

    I think absolutely you did the right thing. Good on you guys to come to the man's rescue.

  152. Anonymous February 16, 2010 at 4:19 pm #


    I was getting up to the platform of Sobu line train to go to work, all in Ichikawa, suburbia between Tokyo and Chiba. As my head was maybe in floor level as I was going up the escalator, heard a scream, few sighs of surprise and horror, than a thump and train brakes screaming….

    Thankfully, I didn't see anything although all happen a meter away, I was protected with a wall…

    Went up, had the same dilemma…

    Pulled a camera, snapped a shot from afar, but the view was completely blocked by the train itself. Than, I guess human in me kicked in and I deleted even that photo and stored the camera. I don't have the guts for it..

    But I understand your dilemma, I had it too…


  153. Justin Quinton Photography February 16, 2010 at 4:26 pm #

    This is probably repeating others views (I didn't read every comment!) But I wouldn't even think about my camera in a situation like that. Help would be the first instinct..and after the situation was stable I still wouldn't dream of it…unless I was asked by the victim to document things for legal reasons then sure.

  154. George February 16, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

    I feel the same way as you. If the situation warranted it, I would have used my camera skills to document the scene in order to help the victim if necessary. I don't think that I would be able to photograph the pain/anguish in order to exploit the victims for my own personal gain.

  155. Kurtis February 16, 2010 at 4:45 pm #

    I split my time between professional adventure photography and the firehall. I regularly see some messed up stuff (highway rescue) and people in criticle situations. I am also the scene photographer once the patients (or deceased) have been loaded.
    For investigation, training, and debriefing I shoot as much as I can (including deceased as that is a part of some investigations). I can also understand the value of war and social tragedy photography in and for our history.
    What it comes down to is what are you using it for? We use trauma images to prepare for such events, but to just use it for viewing pleasure is, IMO crossing the line. I have the ability to work under major stress and excitement but I do not have the ability to erase the images in my mind from all the nasty stuff I have ever seen. Motivation should come down to the positive and responsible outcome of the tragedy, not for entertainment. Not every event is newsworthy.
    Sorry for the spew.

  156. msrodrigues February 16, 2010 at 4:51 pm #

    Hi Chase. I live with this very frequently. I am an emergency physician and a serious amateur photographer. I live in Brazil and work in 2 big ER and as an "on site" physician at the ambulance system and at the air medical transport system. I always take my camera with me. And I work in a very conflicted area… Some times I take the photo… I just need to do it, that must be registered… some times there are work to be done… and I register after that… sometimes take my camera out will be so dangerous that safety is more important…
    The place that I work has a murder statistic worst than Bagda, due to drug dealers problems.

  157. Doug van Kampen PHOTOGRAPHY February 16, 2010 at 4:59 pm #

    The decision to shoot or not to shoot touches on what is to be considered in everyday life and is, profoundly, what it means to be human.

    Be it an image in our minds eye or on film, the desire to capture remains. The guilt comes from the compassion that drives us, no matter what vocation one undertakes each day or is compelled to bring the rest of the world.

    My thoughts, as well as yours, remain with the individual in need…

    Thank you for sharing.

  158. ER February 16, 2010 at 5:00 pm #

    moral dilema…. if you're a reporter or a photojournalist, then I think you have to shoot and document what happened. if other than that, i think its wise not to. just think of how would you feel if you're in the same situation and people took photos instead of calling 911.

  159. Viola February 16, 2010 at 5:23 pm #

    There's a lot of ifs here. As the hit victim, because it was the daughter, no don't shoot. If the driver was someone not connected to the victim, yes shoot for insurance purposes. Photographing someone's tragedy for purely your own purpose, is in poor taste and cruel.

  160. Michael Zukerman February 16, 2010 at 6:12 pm #

    This is actually a very simple question with an even less complicated answer. Do what your conscience tells you is the right thing to do. I am a true believer in general, that a human beings conscience will dictate what he does and says. So just do the next right thing.

    As for me, I am in the news business, the sports business, and shoot portraits, products, weddings, and on and on both in still photography AND television and I have run up on this conundrum a number of times. I have shot when I wasn't the care giver, and never crossed my mind when the care was all my responsibility. Once others take over and there is nothing left for me to do, I shoot. But that's MY conscience talking.

  161. dwalkertx February 16, 2010 at 6:17 pm #

    What I learned working as a photojournalist – If the photograph doesn't add value to the people seeing the image, then it doesn't need to be shot. Think of September 11th, it was horrific but documenting the tragedy added value for society. I don't think shooting a daughter hit her dad with her car adds value for society.

    My 2 cents.

  162. Simon February 16, 2010 at 6:39 pm #

    Do it the same way both of our moms probably taught to us : don't do to others what you wouldn't want them to do to you. Think it that way !

  163. Bluestill February 16, 2010 at 6:47 pm #

    I agree there are an awful lot of "don't shoots" in this blog, yet there were an awful lot of hits on You Tube to see Saddam Hussein hanging. Not to make this political, but just to point out that I don't think people shoot tragedy for the sport of it, I think they shoot tragedy as a way of creating history that people want to become a part of when they think they are brave enough to view it. The tact and sympathy we deliver with the image makes the difference. It's a gray area for sure, and some might have a hard time sleeping afterwards, but someone will be brave enough to do the job, and if I was involved in an accident, regardless to how tragic, I would hope that one of my fellow photographers captured it on camera. Remember the images on the cover of Life Magazine during the Vietnam War when photographer Co Rentmeester was hit by a bullet while photographing the war (no I'm not that old silly lol)? I am quite sure he didn't want to have this photo taken or any of the other photos on this link for that matter, but shit happens.

  164. Bluestill February 16, 2010 at 6:59 pm #

    Shooting first, aiding later reminds me of the crime of the photographers at the scene of the Princess Diana & Dodi Al Fahyed;

  165. Suselek February 16, 2010 at 7:20 pm #

    Not to shoot, and especially- not to publish. I remember seeing few moths ago a video on the local TV station web page from the accident which just happened, maybe half an hour earlier. People died. You could recognize the cars and registration plates. You wonder, how the families and friends learned learned…

  166. Rodrigo Gaya February 16, 2010 at 8:05 pm #

    My paramedic friends have told me, when first at the scene of an accident, obviously call 911. BUT, he says, unless you are certified to perform CPR, or a paramedic yourself, its best not perform any medical procedures on the injured person.

    You can easily make things worse for the injured, or even permanently disable them, just by touching them. You never know what diseases the other people might have.

    Its best to try to console them or talk to them until the paramedics get there.

    That being said, if you can help dont shoot. But it really does depend on the circumstances, and it seems like you did the right thing.

  167. Joyce Dy February 16, 2010 at 8:23 pm #

    Read your tweet yesterday & I prayed for the victims and I thanked God that He sent you guys there to help. You did the right thing by helping first, then document, & wait for some time to blog about it.

    That's a good formula. It shows good character & being sensitive. Each of us can be the only judge to what our true intentions are. Some may look in disgust, but you do what you do because you're an artist and see life through a different lens. Some people will never understand that.

    I was pulled out of a rolled over car by a Good Samaritan when my car hydroplaned. I think he took pictures of my vehicle afterwards, but I wasn't offended. I can see he was emotionally attached to the situation. Looking back at my photo humbles me.

    I have a feeling you would shoot the moment in a way that keeps the privacy of the victims, yet share the photojournalistic journey of an incident that has changed one's life. Peace & Blessings…

  168. Edie Howe February 16, 2010 at 9:33 pm #

    I was present when the remains of a suicide were brought down from the base of Half Dome in Yosemite by helicopter and transfered by firefighters to a waiting ambulance. These were firefighters who had been called for recovery of the remains when they were taking a break from fighting the Telegraph fire just outside the park.

    I took the picture of the firefighters carrying the bundled remains with the express purpose of documenting their dedication to duty even when duty is piled high.

    For me, the shot wasn't about the gruesome death, it was about heroes doing a sad and terrible duty even in the midst of fighting a fire.

    That's what cinched it for me. I took the photo, and I published it.

  169. chad Zellner February 16, 2010 at 10:59 pm #

    I see a lot of mistakes done for shock value (e.g. a news crew trying to get ratings). But I think shooting a tragedy can be done the right way. For example, would Haiti have gotten all the help it received if there hadn't been a flood of photos/videos coming out of personal tragedy? I wrote a longer post about that here:

    But it seems that it depends on the shooter. I personally wouldn't be able to shoot a car wreck like that. But I know people that wouldn't think twice about it.

  170. pjakobs February 16, 2010 at 11:27 pm #

    I can't see where there's a picture in this story. It's a personal tragedy, the only photo to be gotten out of it would be a revolting one, but one without the power to change anything. It's a whole different story from the stories that war/disaster photography tells: in those cases, pictures are a way to get the public involved, a speachless language to talk about atrocities that we don't have words for.
    Even if the picture of this sad accident was run in a national newspaper, there wouldn't be any meaningful call to action for the readers, so what's the value of it, except a few cheap thrills?


  171. Josef Moffett February 16, 2010 at 11:40 pm #

    Weird, there is so much in such a "little" post. It sure hits a raw nerve on most/all of us.

    I'll be honest and say I find I usually don't take photos of this kind – almost intentionally – because of the personal aspect. The person being portrayed as doing something stupid, and the person having the stupid done to them have stories that I don't know, have histories that lead to the event that I can't guess at.

    In a "bigger picture" scenario though I figure that these individuals are not the real actors. Take a war for example. A soldier being shot, a prisoner being executed, a girl running naked down the street with her back in ruins are images not of the immediate subject, but of the horror of what cold minded people are directing from distant and safe zones, while the victims are just so much meat. A photo that brings that message home, no matter how much personal tragedy is portrayed is actually also portraying a national tragedy, a universal shame.

    But when the image is between you and the subject, with little further message except in the "oh gross, look at that awful wound" then I think drop the camera. Feeding on harm for harms sake is very vampirish, and I'm afraid most of the newspaper publications are very guilty of fostering that – while the carefully thought out publications of the very photographers that shoot for those newspapers tend often to be more circumspect.

    Perhaps the question, "could this enhance that photo book I am thinking of producing?" might give a better insight to the real motives for ultimately wanting to press the shutter.

  172. Darren February 16, 2010 at 11:45 pm #

    To Shoot or Not to Shoot?

    We for me I always shoot but i agree with the fact i would always help first!

    This is a very important fact as a persons life is not worth more than a picture.

    I have taken pictures in several tragic events all of which have made front page news.

    I rarely get in peoples face and shoot from a distance and shoot the scene with the hustle as this makes for a more news worthy shot.

    Chase love your blog and work just trying to keep up!

  173. Abe Froman February 17, 2010 at 12:07 am #

    Moments are fleeting. They are there one moment then gone the next. Your ability and opportunity to capture them is your responsibility. Even if the injured man felt at the time that his privacy was being violated. I am sure after the fact he would be grateful that someone was there to capture those moments as they happened. Not to relive the pain, but to remind him that he is alive.

  174. Marcin Retecki February 17, 2010 at 12:21 am #

    In my opinion the most important is to provide help, CPR if needed, saving life is way more important than any photo.

    However, in certain circumstances, like when there is already number of people helping, another "helper" would only made it crowded, then it is possible to take photos, but only if you don't disturb the help.

    Thats my opinion, I guess some people tend to be more strict about privacy, but as long as you are not causing any damage, photos can actually help police or other forces after the accident, not mentioning journalistic value.

  175. James February 17, 2010 at 12:41 am #

    There was an piece on military snipers on NPR today, and the interviewee said that the most difficult and important part of being a sniper was knowing when not to shoot.


  176. Lou February 17, 2010 at 12:44 am #

    The "to shoot" or "not to shoot" decision I think is an instant gut check. It either happens or it doesn't and is largely situational.

    Many years ago during the WCT with John McEnroe playing against Steve Denton in the final match, I had the opportunity to make a great photo.

    McEnroe had been suffering from a nagging shoulder injury that had hampered him through much of the tournie and after a tough match he lost to Denton.

    After shooting Denton accepting his trophy I happened to be in the hallway outside of the training room when McEnroe exited with an ice bag on one shoulder and his racquet in his opposite hand.

    I had a great frame of him, semi-silhouetted at the end of the darkened corridor with his head down and shoulders slumped walking away from me. The profile was instantly recognizable.

    The moment was so personal and private that I just couldn't press the shutter release. I am sure that losing the match and the tournie was hard enough on him without having this very private moment shared with the world.

    I am sure making that photo would have won me awards and changed the course of my career, but to this day – I have no regrets for not taking it.

    Like I said – you follow your instinct. In this case your gut told you not to shoot. You did the right thing in my book.

  177. Jakob Ebert February 17, 2010 at 1:03 am #

    In this kind of moments you should forget about all "camerawork", these Moment are about life, about the reality. Help, stay close!

  178. virtual worlds for kids February 17, 2010 at 2:17 am #

    It is truely a dilemma. From a documentation standpoint it is proper and in fact important but it feels ethically incorrect.

  179. Jay McLaughlin February 17, 2010 at 2:52 am #

    This is a tough one, because they're the sort of images that create the biggest response in people due to their nature… but are often the most questionable to take as photographer.

    I would always advocate, help first, shoot/or not shoot later. The first thought should always be to help people in need.

    Weirdly though, if I was the injured guy, I might well want images of the event. It's these sort of situations that are often a blur or cause blackouts, so it would help me to understand exactly what happened….. plus they'd be good for an insurance case if nothing else! ;)

  180. Kazam Media February 17, 2010 at 3:03 am #

    This purely comes down to you and you alone.

    The decisions you make at a crisis time like this are often not made by thought, but sometimes by instinct, or even fear – so it is harsh to judge others.

    However, there are some photographers who will make a very conscious decision to get the shot regardless of what has happened and put themselves and "the image" above everything else.

    For the record I had a similar situation.
    As a press photographer I got asked to record a go-kart race here in Cornwall. It was on a very steep field, with only a few straw bales for safety. However being a local, fun race no-one seemed to be concerned that much, they were all looking forward to a fun day raising money for the village hall.

    After a few racers, one cart (made from large solid pipe with a solid cone at the front) came down the field and quickly lost control. It hit a group of spectators and sent them all flying. Once the debris had settled, only then it became apparent that a little girl had been flattened and knocked out by the cart. She was unconscious and literally lying only a few feet away from me.

    I put down my camera and made sure she was breathing, then tried to stabilise her from moving as I didnt know what may have been broken. Other people quickly came over and an ambulance was called. At no point did I even consider taking a photo.
    However I did have a stream of images right up to the impact of the cart on the spectators.

    The little girl was fine (must have been made of rubber) and there were no serious injuries thank god.

    The best part of the day for me was realising that I value a persons life/safety more than the value of "the image".

  181. Gary February 17, 2010 at 4:14 am #

    As others have said, the circumstances dictate your actions. Are you first on the scene, are others there who can provide more help than you? A few months ago I came across a car accident in Littlehampton on the south coast of England, where the vehicle was on its roof. The emergency services had just arrived and I started shooting the scene. You can see the results here:

  182. unblocker February 17, 2010 at 4:17 am #

    I would say if you can help, you help, but if you can't, you shoot. After all the world needs to know the truth.

  183. Ian Eisenberg February 17, 2010 at 4:39 am #

    Hi, thank you very much. good job.

    Ian Eisenberg

  184. snoop February 17, 2010 at 5:23 am #

    In this situation where you are directly involved in the action I would say not to shoot. In a war zone you are an expected 'fly on the wall', locals expect you to be there to document their suffering and usually you will have sought their permission and become a common sight to them.

    If paramedics etc were already there then it may have been okay up to a point where either one of them asked you to stop.

  185. Brian Davis February 17, 2010 at 5:54 am #

    What a terrible thing to see. I hope the girl's dad is alright. I can't imagine how she's feeling about it.

    As a photographer, knowing when to shoot is crucial. I'm glad you showed restraint and even got upset at yourself for thinking it. That's the sign of a good photographer. Sadly the world isn't filled with good people anymore. There are so many that would stand back and take photos just to have something "Cool" to post to facebook, twitter, flickr, or whatever instead of offering help.

    I would say that knowing what to shoot for me comes from my morals and how I was raised. That and I think about myself in that position…would I want a photographer standing over me snapping away as he tries to get his exposure right?

  186. Paul Conrad February 17, 2010 at 6:06 am #

    I think it is a matter of personal decision, as well as a matter of what you can stomach. It is not always mentally or physically pleasant to do your job, although in this case it wasn't really your job. For example, most soldiers do not like shooting people, and some can't. Thank god for the ones who can, even though they often carry the scars with them for a long time. On the photography side, think of all the amazing, world changing photos that people have taken. Think of Nick Ut's picture of the girl in Vietnam who was the victim of a napalm strike. It was probably a hard picture to take, and he could have put his camera down and tried to help her, but on the other hand we no longer use napalm and I think that picture had something to do with that. Did he do the right thing? A lot to think about.

  187. Anonymous February 17, 2010 at 6:07 am #

    That's the trouble with digital photography – it's too easy to pick up a camera, iphone, cellphone and click away at anything. People have lost the fine art of discretion in this day and age. Shoot first and ask questions later is obviously the wrong way to go in any situation. As one person on this blog put it, "if you are in doubt, then there is no doubt." Put yourself in the other persons shoes, then consider if you would want your photo taken…

  188. Scott MacKenzie February 17, 2010 at 6:08 am #

    You know–Depending on the guy's condition and all that, it Would Be Interesting if he received about 500 Get Well cards from all over the world.
    Just sayin'…

  189. jnirvana February 17, 2010 at 6:11 am #

    First help. Always. Then show some apathy, the first moments after such a tragedy humans and any life expects another heart look at them and see with some comfort. If you are the person in the accident would you feel comfortable being part of a picture in such condition. I would do the same thing you did. I would not shoot.

  190. Michael February 17, 2010 at 6:23 am #

    This is a good topic and a hard one. As a photojournalist in a rural area its been more difficult to me to shoot things on a more personal level like a car accident where the victim is visible.
    I had a major accident 5 years ago where my images ended up making newspapers and magazines all over the world.
    A bus caring a hockey team ran into a semi-truck at 70mph.
    It was a horrific scene and I debated with myself if I should shoot it or not. I almost walked away from the scene and my career that day.
    I chose to shoot it. To document a major tragedy. I felt that if others have covered wars and other events that as long as I didn't run around the scene sticking a camera in everybody's face I would be fine.
    So I used my zoom's and other lens to be as invisible as I could.
    While that scene is still burned in my head today I'm happy I did cover it and I still think there is a line you don't cross. It just depends on the situation.

  191. Johny Cook February 17, 2010 at 6:26 am #

    I would say no as What I have noticed is that shooting personal tragedys when u see that specific person in the pain etc isnt accepted by alot of people. But then a building on fire even though there are people inside it seems to be ok? I get a bit lost with it all but I havnt had that experience yet. From my view now I would say no but then I am also a nursing student like rescue monkey was saying they are a paramedic so the patient would be first.

  192. Johny Cook February 17, 2010 at 6:26 am #

    I would say no as What I have noticed is that shooting personal tragedys when u see that specific person in the pain etc isnt accepted by alot of people. But then a building on fire even though there are people inside it seems to be ok? I get a bit lost with it all but I havnt had that experience yet. From my view now I would say no but then I am also a nursing student like rescue monkey was saying they are a paramedic so the patient would be first.

  193. Adam Belnap February 17, 2010 at 6:33 am #

    I am VERY concerned with the second comment from the top – by "Rescue Monkey".

    Just because someone is "Off the clock", it doesn't mean they can't help. Especially when they are a particular professional that is trained in that particular situation. For him/her being an emergancy services/health professional – you'd hope that they would always be "on the clock" so that they could help – in any way. I think you are never off duty when you are on that job.

    I followed in the footsteps of my mother, and went to school for nursing. I quickly found out that I was becoming desensatized to the patients – and just considered it a job. I was just doing the steps I was trained to do to help the individual – without no thought of bedside manner. I became so frightened, that I chose a different career.

    However, My mom always carried a bag of medical supplies, stethescope, and aids in the trunk of her car….she was always on duty, because she knows she could help.

    Please Rescue Monkey – regardless if you are off duty, you can still help. In this case, it's just a photograph.

  194. Anonymous February 17, 2010 at 6:40 am #

    I find it funny that this thought process happens.

    "Why wouldn't you?", I think it's a more appropriate question.

    Really, some of the most amazing pictures have been of suffering and death. What is it that makes it okay, war? War makes a person's death of suffering ok to shoot, but not the tragedy of a father being hit by his 15 old daughter? Or a person dying of AIDS, or starving… but not a person ran over, or a drive-by or whatever. That would be "sick"?

    Because you have to wonder, what is it really that attracts us to this kind of events? Are we addicted to it?

    Can we abstract ourselves of that and appreciate it as art? If not, is street photography forever banned from being art?

    So, you shoot it, you don't shoot it. Whatever… a picture being taken that nobody ever sees, what sound does that make?

    You should've shot it, cause now I'd want to see it.

  195. dhiren February 17, 2010 at 7:28 am #

    sometimes the only eyes on something are the photographers' – you have to shoot, bring light, reveal truth, show reality. Let the pundits argue afterwards -the photo will stand or not.

  196. Kevin Blackburn Photography February 17, 2010 at 7:41 am #

    As a former firefighter/paramedic and news paper photog (did both jobs to feed myself while starting my business) this is always the hard decision to make personally, morally, and ethically! in the end you just have to trust your heart do what feels right and be ready to defend your decision. With my past I think you are spot on you help the injured when there is no one else to help them, THEN you shoot and tell the story its is a sad fact that bad news always compels more than good news does but that is the way we are as humans I suppose.

    Kudos Chase for sharing the things that touch us the most are often the most difficult to share.

  197. Craig February 17, 2010 at 7:46 am #

    I think at times you need to put yourself in the shoes of the victim/subject. What if you were laying there people were helping yes but someone was in the background snapping photos.

    A simple car wreck is much different than a war or something that is horrible to see but needs documenting to help voice their cause/concern.

    Same goes for some of the difficult work I do photographing children with cancer– at times taking a photo is the perfect thing to do– other times putting the camera down and giving a hug is the right thing to do. You feel it inside and you go with it.

  198. Bob February 17, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    You're a good human, Chase. It boils down to just that.

    My opinion of you just increased by multiples. You were already high on my list.

  199. Anonymous February 17, 2010 at 9:34 am #

    How is the man doing?

  200. Steven Martine February 17, 2010 at 10:04 am #

    Always shoot, my lesson was learned on a news scene of a deceased child, mom collapsed in officers arms after discovering her child, I as a parent, felt terrible for her, loosing her son, I had a really powerful image in the viewfinder, but felt she deserved a break, it was already such a tragedy, not being splashed all over the paper was my parent to parent sympathetic moment.
    Hours later, I learned she killed her son, beat him to death… she is rotting in prison……just what she deserves…..
    always shoot, work out the details when they become clear…..

  201. jeff February 17, 2010 at 10:50 am #

    When I was starting out in the news biz many years ago and I would have taken the shot. Not even given it a second thought. Now, after twenty-some years of covering suffering and misery I would help first and then move off and shoot if other help came. And not even give that a second thought.

  202. Anonymous February 17, 2010 at 11:03 am #

    Unless this picture will have some broader social value I think it is not appropriate to shoot. Accidents happen everyday and there is no social good to seeing an injured and broken body.

    These personal tragedies can easily become entertainment for people not indirectly involved in them.

    I generally think about how I would feel if I was lying injured and someone stuck a camera in my face or tried to photograph someone I cared about in such a state.

  203. David Peacock February 17, 2010 at 11:21 am #

    It's good that your gut had you question this. My personal take on it is split. On the one hand if all you're doing is glory hunting or feeding the media machine, then you're shooting for the wrong reasons. A capture of a day-to-day accident like that doesn't really serve any public interest or have any value.

    But that said, some of the most important images in history, images that have changed the world and the way the masses think, are horrific and we only have them because the photographer did choose to press the shutter release.

    The world would be incredibly different without Steve McCurry's "Afghan Girl", or Huynh Cong Ut's "Napalm Girl" or Kevin Carter's "Stricken Child", or countless others that can be mentioned. All of these images could arguably be considered bad taste, and had the photographer NOT shot them and blogged instead, people may well applaud them for leaving the camera off.

    Sometimes, spending time capturing the event as important as actively helping out, no matter how difficult it seems at the time.

  204. severoon February 17, 2010 at 11:24 am #

    Hmm…this is a sensitive issue for photographers & those being photographed, but let me throw out a couple of things.

    1. This is not an issue of invasion of privacy. If you're not going to take the picture, please come up with a better reason than that. This happened in public view, we simply can't use that reason unless we're willing to yield our rights as photographers in other situations that would make this reasoning consistent. I'm not willing to do that.

    That's not to say I'd whip my camera out and start shooting either. But it would not be because I'm worried about invading someone else's privacy.

    2. I think it's dangerous to judge the act of capturing a photograph. My basic premise is, if it's ok for the public to see with their eyes, it's ok for the public to see with their cameras. This is basic to living in a free society.

    It's less fraught to judge usage of the photograph, but even here it's not as cut'n'dried. Some have already suggested in this discussion that profiting from it would be wrong, for instance. Allow me to pose a hypothetical and see what you think…

    I take a photograph of the accident and use it to illustrate a pamphlet on the seriousness of the task of teaching a new driver. This seems to me to be a way of trying to do something good out of a bad situation. I don't necessarily see a problem with charging for such a pamphlet. Photojournalists cover this kind of situation all the time, and we all (I hope) recognize the value of news reporting in a free society.

    The more questionable use would be posting it to a blog that mocks the victim or the girl. I would not do this personally, and I might condemn someone else for doing it. But do we want to live in a society where I have the power to prevent that kind of behavior by someone else? I don't.

  205. Jon February 17, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

    I suppose the question comes into my mind, does historical value in the missed shot mean anything? What if the person struck by the car was, say, a influential writer? A politician? A visionary photographer? Does it matter if you recognize the person or not? Does it matter if it's someone "important" versus your average Joe? What if that average Joe goes on to do great things later in life? Does it make the missed opportunity different? How about the driver when she grows up?

    I don't have an answer, really. To be honest I expect that I would forget to shoot, and then when the adrenaline cools down I'd kick myself for not taking the photograph.

  206. remeife February 17, 2010 at 1:17 pm #

    You did the right thing!!
    Admire you

  207. Scott February 17, 2010 at 1:32 pm #

    This happened to me when I was going to school in D.C.. A biker had gotten hit by a car and was in the middle of the street in Georgetown. I decided to shoot, only because there were already several people around him helping and 911 already called. If I was in your position however, I never would have thought of my camera first. I think it all depends on how much help you could give at that given moment.

  208. Din February 17, 2010 at 2:46 pm #

    Whether you shoot or not shoot, there’s no right or wrong answer, each decision will take you on a different path.

    Don’t think, just feel because there's a blessing in every single situation and these are the little embers that light your life.

  209. LilFluff February 17, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    I will agree with those who said that it comes down to whether you are in the position to help or not.

    In this case, where you were first on the scene, yeah, help as you did. But, if it hadn't happened right in front on you and you can on the scene after paramedics were already there to help? Then I'd say it is more whether you are personally comfortable taking the picture.

    I really only see two things that would upset me if the picture were for editorial purposes. One would be if you were getting in the way of help. I rather doubt you would shove a paramedic out of the way to get a better picture so we can discount that. The other would be later misuse of the picture. People who know me know I don't curse much. But one of the times I did (and surprise myself with how furious my voice got in an instance) was when I say a book that had a picture from the Oklahoma City bombing, one of the iconic pictures of the day of a firefighter carrying out the body of a toddler. It wasn't that someone took the picture that angered me — it was the bottom feeders who, without asking the photographer or the parents of the child, copied to picture to put on items to sell to satisfy their own greed.

  210. Anonymous February 17, 2010 at 4:33 pm #

    Greetings Chase! I enjoy photographing drills of firefighters and USAR scenarios. I'm involed in and volunteer in Emergency Disaster Communications and Recovery/EMT. I will not photograph tragedy. I was trained to save lives not to shoot natural catastrophe.

  211. Scott Hargis February 17, 2010 at 4:36 pm #

    When it's the Mayor, or the Senator, or some other public figure who got hit by the car, you shoot it. It's news.

    When it's John Doe, it's not news — you don't shoot it.


  212. Warren Knower February 17, 2010 at 7:46 pm #

    Amazing how things just tend to coincide. I was just looking at some of the images that won the World Press Photo of the Year awards (;=blogsection&id;=20&Itemid;=257&bandwidth;=high)and was wondering the same thing. There are some incidents that I could not even be near let alone pick up a camera to document. For instance Stoned to death (Somalia)

  213. Jonny February 17, 2010 at 9:44 pm #

    It's not what you shoot, it's how and why you shoot it. Is the capture for monetary gain? Is it 'because we were there' (the rubbernecker photographer). Was the purpose of the image or the series of images to tell a story? To achieve a goal? To bring good?

    The boston globe 'big picture' feature is an excellent example of the perfect balance between story, art, and controversy.

    Photojournalism is not commercial photography, obviously. The motivation and purpose is completely different, despite the same medium.

  214. Tom Di Maggio February 18, 2010 at 12:04 am #

    Actually, there's a very easy answer to that: If you were there to shoot, then shoot. If you came first to help, then don't shoot.

    I spend 16 years in a Fire Brigade, always did it that way, never had any regrets.

  215. Aaron February 18, 2010 at 1:05 am #

    personally, i'd would have ran for the d3x whilst yelling @ people and then gone out to help. . . .

  216. samar February 18, 2010 at 3:28 am #

    This has been most thought provoking post till date. If I am in such a situation, I would want to shoot but couldn't get myself to do it.

  217. Thomas February 18, 2010 at 6:51 am #

    I've always been one that keeps to my own business, but that being said. If i can help I will.

  218. Edwin February 18, 2010 at 8:16 am #

    It does not sound like shooting after the fact while the guy is on the ground suffering would have serve any purpose. If you had seen the accident in progress and been shooting that is another question.
    The first question for me is what purpose does the photo serve. I don't shoot just because I am a photographer, I shoot with a story or specific objective in mind.
    I think you made the right choice.

  219. Shazar February 18, 2010 at 10:03 am #

    Hey Chase,

    I read this post yesterday, and needed some time to compose an adequate response to it.

    When I did my photojournalism course in college, my professor had us watch "War Photographer" (, featuring James Natchwey. There was one scene, when he's speaking about all the suffering he sees, and people begging for him to help, and the only thing he could do was to capture that grief with a camera.

    That broke my heart, because I can't fathom being in a situation so dire, and not having a tangible way of helping someone in that moment. A photograph is a powerful weapon, but it will never be an immediate response to a call for help. It can showcase the plight, but unless you're using the camera to clear away rubble, or breaking a window to help someone get out of somewhere. It's a physical tool, but as a social medium, requires an audience.

    When you're confronted with a scenario where action is required on your part (being the first one there), the camera becomes secondary. You do what is necessary to stabilize the situation. As my dad always quotes, "The right to life supercedes the right to property." Sustaining that person's life is first priority.

    Once that is done, then the camera can be picked up. I make a personal statement to photograph the traumas my friends and family go though, because in those moments, they're so subsumed by emotions, they can't process anything that's going on. Once the crisis is resolved, those photos help them to remember what they were thinking, and what occurred.

    I believe that the danger we find ourselves in, is that the power of an image *appears* to supercede the power of helping. Images are a rally cry for change; but when you're in the middle of shit, you need a shovel to get yourself (and others) out first, before you can rally others.

    I always have a camera, and I always shoot. I don't let the morality into the image until after I've made the images. At least then, I can ponder whether or not to save the photos, instead of "I should have…" or "what if…" You can't effectively follow a course of moral action if there isn't something tangible to apply it to.

    Be well.

  220. Anonymous February 18, 2010 at 5:03 pm #

    You shoot images to tell the story what others only tell in words.
    Sometimes it's hard to justify for others sometimes even harder to justify for yourself but whateva…

    I'm still hold and image of my friend lie dead after he got shoot under the Balkan conflict. When we left Eszek, after surrounded by serbians he got shoot and when I looked back in the pitch dark he was already gone. I took that image of him holding my lighter to his face and I knoow it's going to be just a black negative. But it's came back as a blurie, dark and sad photo. It was a photo about the moment and about the period we lived.

    Keep on taking photos. If you don't do it who else going to tell the story?

  221. Anonymous February 18, 2010 at 6:19 pm #

    If the accident was, in your assessment, newsworthy then you were in greater risk of an ethical dilemma for not photographing the scene. That is, provided you are a professional journalist. (Personally, I think forty words on page six would've sufficed. Who needs a picture of this? It wasn't Britney drunk, or Big Foot, driving.) Otherwise, being a conscientiously moral witness, and/or actor, to these events is called for. (BTW Who told you to "stabilize" — indeed, move at all — the victim onto his back, and place a pillow under his head? Speak of news.)In some countries it's actually a crime not to offer some assistance (something, anything)at the scene of an accident. (re: France) In the USA we're covered by "Good Sam laws" [sic]; but you'll want to check that from time to time. (BTW Most police won't know what the hell you're talking about if you invoke it.)

    Now another poster makes mention of an instance when a professed, credential flashing, "nurse" abandoned a patient (no longer classified a "victim", at this point)to get into it with a photographer. If ever a scene called for photography, that one did. All the photographer need do in such an instance is repeat over-and-over "I'm fine! Your patient is over there." And I hope a clear photograph of this nurse was taken — and made available to that state's health department, the accident victim's insurance company, the police, and anyone working in allied health who would take as much pleasure as me in seeing the shit kicked out of that "nurse". (I'm betting either Certified Nursing Assistant, or a very burnt-out retired school nurse answering phones for a volunteer ambulance two nights a month.)

  222. Matt February 18, 2010 at 10:48 pm #

    KEVIN CARTER comes to mind. His case is extreme though… Decide when you're in the moment, whatever you decide is the right choice for that moment. What you do with the image later is perhaps the most important part of all


  223. Jonathan Stokes February 19, 2010 at 2:15 pm #

    If the picture has real news importance, and valid public interest, you make the picture.

    This is especially true if the image would be likely to highlight an important cause.

    In this case though, I don't think either of these points are relevant, so you were right not to photograph.

    The picture wouldn't have been that newsworthy, and wouldn't have highlighted an important cause, it would have just made the situation much worse than it already was.

  224. Anonymous February 19, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    If you know he wasn't critical and you you confirm it later – they would probably both be interested in the picture(s). It's something they will never forget and always talk about. You can always take the picture – it's what you do with it that makes the difference.

  225. Amy February 20, 2010 at 3:24 am #

    I crashed a car two weeks after I got my learner's permit. Thankfully the most serious injury was whiplash, but it was on a busy street corner in my small hometown. One of the first few people on the scene was a photographer from the local paper. Apparently he knew my parents so he chose not to photograph the accident. I was thankful at the time, but half the people I knew drove by before it was all cleaned up anyway. Now I kind of wish I had a photo because I managed to maneuver that car into a pretty tricky position. Makes for a good story now, but I would've been horrified and embarrassed as a 16 year old.

  226. Bear February 20, 2010 at 10:38 am #

    Tragedy is part of the human condition. We are constantly reminded of our own mortality and the fragility within life when we witness the suffering of others.

    There are gratuitous uses of trauma photography, so I think the question to be asked is: "What is your motive."

    Glad you were there to help out.

  227. Dalle February 20, 2010 at 2:58 pm #

    Last summer I witnessed a motor cycle driver driving straight into a lake. There were a lot of people there to help out. So did I.

    First after I understood that the outcome was good I started shooting.

    I sold the pictures to a local newspaper with the demands that they had to blur the face of the driver.

    If the outcome had been worse I'd not had shot the pictures.


  228. Forrest February 20, 2010 at 8:38 pm #

    The very first job I had in this crazy business was with a small town news station that was very highly regarded where I grew up. My assignment was to often go out and film car accidents that happened on the highway. I saw horrific accidents; death. I was 16 and its something that has shaped me since.
    I've often pondered this question- why? what good does it serve? I once answered this by saying that if I made one person pull over when they were tired or not risk that pass on the two lane; if I prevented one accident it was all worth it.
    I still feel that the 'for the common good' justification works and if they were able to objective about the situation, I think the victims would agree as well…
    Finally, and this is super important: I always arrived after the ambulance- if you're first on any scene, you must help immediately- even if its just to hold the person's hand. Feeling the victim's humanity is paramount.

  229. Pol February 22, 2010 at 12:32 am #

    Having been on the receiving end where the press got invasive, I think you made the right decision not to shoot. Sometimes it is newsworthy, yes, but there is a fine line between responsible reporting and smut/ sensationalism.
    This poor family will feel the repercussions of this accident for years to come.

  230. Alex February 23, 2010 at 9:36 am #

    Interesting how few people asked about the gentleman who was injured……

    In these media obsessed times, do we really need to document EVERYTHING?

    Comfort the injured, calm down the girl who clearly also needed help – there are another 364 days to pick up the camera!

  231. Dave February 24, 2010 at 10:08 pm #

    I've been on both sides, unfortunately more than once. I was hit with a car that was drag racing in the street when I was 7, in 1967. If someone had taken photos back then, it would have helped pieced the scene together, and give me something to look back on now 40 years later. Once we were waiting for a client, a friend to come over for a portrait appointment for her daughter. She was late which was not like her. Turns out she was in an accident, not her fault just 2 blocks from our studio. We ran over and once we made sure she was OK we took photos with her permission to document the scene. This helped her case with insurance. So like many said, it depends, and Help first if you can, then shoot if it can help or it's news worthy.

  232. Kit Ng February 25, 2010 at 7:27 pm #

    I think you did the right thing, Chase and it is the most noble act by helping the wounded, if you can, as the first priority when facing such circumstances.

    Since at the time of the incidence you and your staff were the first at the scene and those injured needed help and comfort are priorities. Being photographed would be the secondary, if not last, the wounded required.

  233. mike langer February 26, 2010 at 12:31 am #

    You're decision to intervene instead of shoot, was, in my opinion, a "no-brainer", and there should be no moral doubt in your mind that you made the only choice possible. The fact that we're photographers does not provide us with an excuse to abandon our humanity, compassion, or integrity when we have the opportunity to alleviate suffering or save a life. As you know, the situation you found yourself in was relentlessly analyzed by Susan Sontag in her essays on photography, and happens to some photographers on an almost daily basis. I'm sure that, had you been in the Paris tunnel when Princess Diana had her car accident, you would have made the same decision and intervened to help, instead of standing around taking pictures for the local tabloids.

  234. MoDs February 27, 2010 at 6:58 am #

    Intention and purpose. To photograph an emotionally charged event certainly requires nerves of steel and a clear purpose in mind. To simply shoot without forethought shows disrespect to the injured. Reportage and documentation is, I find, the only reasons to shoot this scene.
    Otherwise, a helping hand is what it needs most.

  235. sundeee February 27, 2010 at 5:41 pm #

    In the moment of certain instances you can really only trust your gut feeling. I think in your case since it was in front of your building and you were the firsts to arrive, it was right not to shoot.

    In some of my photo courses we discuss ethics and are encouraged to stay far away from what is called "disaster porn."

    Shoot if it is important or necessary for the story to be told visually.

  236. Daniel Sone February 28, 2010 at 6:46 am #

    If the people were already being helped by others, I'd shoot the whole thing. Otherwise, I'll be helping.
    I'd stand off and photograph as to not be obnoxious, intrusive, and overall d!ck. You give them some space.
    If you're PJ-ing something like that, you should not just charge in there like paparazzi and stick your wide-angle in their face, shutter clacking, and flash-syncing their tears.
    Respect them.
    After it is over, go home, calm down and then begin your editing.

  237. Gave' Love March 8, 2010 at 10:55 pm #

    Good call. It is hard to know how to listen to your heart like this.

  238. fresh_fish April 3, 2010 at 10:50 pm #


    I know this post is old, but I wanted to share something that I experienced today to help me get through what I experienced. Tonight, I witnessed a car flipping behind me as I was stopped at a signal to take the final left turn to the street to my parent's house. I pulled over to the side of the road and ran out to see if the driver was ok since his car was on its side. I was trying to get him out of his car with 2 other bystanders but even though he was ok, he refused to come out. As the minutes passed, the gravity of the situation began to unfold. The driver was drunk and was swerving in and out of traffic. What I didn't see was the fact that he hit a woman standing on the side of the road and the woman flew up a hill into a field and landed against a metal sign, in that process, the driver smashed into a phone pole and broke the pole.

    As the facts began to unfold in front of me, I ran back to my car and grabbed my camera bag. Since it was later in the day and the number of bystanders were trampling the area around the car and where the woman lie, I decided to record images of the accident scene. I remembered this post when I saw 6 EMTs carry the woman down the hill on a board. It was clear the woman was badly injured with bleeding on her body. Do I take pictures of this or not? I had a minute before they had her in the ambulance, but I put my camera to my side and allowed the moment to pass.

    The EMTs made the decision to call in a helicopter to take the woman to the trauma center. Since I was walking distances from the accident, I went home, copied all of the images I took onto a CD for the police, and walked it back to them for their record. When I arrived, the accident scene was completed blocked off and I was told it had become a crime scene. The woman died before the medivac landed at the hospital. Since it was almost sunset and the forensics team hadn't arrived yet, I was the first to capture images immediately after the accident, which will now become a criminal investigation. The police and EMTs were appreciative that I was there to capture images for the investigation and expressed their thanks to me.

    Looking back at the accident, I'm not sure if I would have done anything differently if I knew the woman wasn't going to make it. I remember seeing the woman's left arm dangling down the gurney with her wedding band covered in blood. I remember seeing the face of her husband or father after he arrived at the scene and seconds after the police took him to the helicopter landing site. If I captured those those images, would it help the prosecution serve a harsher penalty to the drunk driver? Should I have captured more images to help the investigators reconstruct the accident? These will be unanswered questions as the events of today begin to unfold into the future, but I hope this helps others if you come across a similar situation.

  239. Coming to the aid of a fellow man trumps everything.

  240. Stephan August 11, 2011 at 6:34 am #

    Interesting debate. I agree with the phrase if you can help, do so, adding that if you’re not sure what to do, don’t help, chances are you make thing even worse. Just make the necessary call and try to create a perimeter so the victim(s) are safe.
    Then the question to shoot or not to shoot. I’m not a (photo)journalist. If it’s to shoot an image or two, just for the heck of it, don’t because then your leitmotiv is probably the kick you get from somebody’s suffering.
    If I could tell a story, then I would probably shoot multiple images. For example a close-up of a guy throwing a stone is useless. It doesn’t tell a story, the guy could be shot in Paris, in Palestine or in London. It’s just an image and had no value at all. You need to tell a story.
    Would I shoot or not? It depends. Can I relate to the subject? Am I in danger while shooting these images? Does the event have any relevance? Could it help make things better? All sorts of question would pop up in my mind.

  241. Prawo pracy Warszawa November 23, 2011 at 10:22 am #

    I do agree with all of the ideas you have presented in your post. They’re really convincing and will definitely work. Still, the posts are too short for novices. Could you please extend them a little from next time? Thanks for the post.

  242. dududukkkkkkk May 28, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    To Shoot or Not To Shoot | Chase Jarvis Blog I was suggested this web site by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my difficulty. You’re amazing! Thanks! your article about To Shoot or Not To Shoot | Chase Jarvis BlogBest Regards SchaadAndy

  243. Victoria Lyter December 22, 2012 at 8:40 pm #

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