Everyone likes to think that they're a photographer now but when you find yourself in a situation in which you can indeed become a 'citizen journalist' how do we know that these people will have the nerve, or know how to actually document the situation in an unbiased and factually way? Of course there will always be the minutes, or even hours where professional journalists and photographers cannot get close and it will fall down to the everyday people in the situation to document the happenings and send out the first photographs and reports.
But a recent article in the Guardian about photographers who have been put in a position where they had to choose between getting 'the shot' or intervening to help - many of which choosing the former - and a response by James Johnson of (Notes on) Politics, Theory & Photography prompted me to think about how the photographs we see might change and how we may always need professional 'conflict photographers' and that they will probably never go away.
James Johnson asked, "Do we want them for their compassion? Or, do we want them for the ability to stomach events that we'd otherwise be able to blithely ignore?"
I go back to Johnson's question "Do we want them for their compassion? Or, do we want them for the ability to stomach events that we'd otherwise be able to blithely ignore?" You wouldn't randomly find yourself in the middle of a known conflict zone unless you had some reason to be there as part of your profession, automatically making prepared for the situation and ready to see it from an outsiders point of view. These events are far displaced from many people, so they need to be sought out, documented and you need the professionals who have the stomach to do it. Events that everyday citizens may find themselves in are unexpected, they happen right on your doorstep, they are unavoidable and reported upon greatly because they are rarities. It's when things happen more frequently and everyday citizens can go about their business, planning to avoid them, or glazing over them that the role of the professional journalist comes into play. And for that reason they will never go away.
Image courtesy AP