Friday, November 23, 2012

VII Photo's Donald Weber defends Ron Haviv

Weber defended his agency mate when asked about THAT Lockhead Martin photograph at a Frontline Club panel discussion this week

Canadian photographer Donald Weber has defended fellow VII photojournalist Ron Haviv who was caught in the middle of a controversy surrounding the use of one of his photographs to advertise a weapons intelligence company.

“Basically, he shot the photographs in Iraq for his own work,” Weber said. “And through his commercial agent – not through VII – an advertising agency bought that work.”

Back in July it emerged that a photograph by war photographer and VII Photo member Haviv was being used in an advertisement for defense, security and technology company Lockhead Martin. Much controversy surrounded the image and Ron Haviv at the time; should he have allowed his image to be used to promote the services of a company, which sold the very weapons and intelligence technology, which contribute to troubles in places that he photographs such as Afghanistan and the Middle East?

It is a well-known fact that sometimes photographers have to take the money jobs in order to be able to do the projects they love and believe in and it’s a point, which was brought up on Wednesday evening (November 21) at the Frontline Club in Paddington, London. The panel discussion in association with the World Photography Organisation covered funding and the different ways to find money for photographic projects in order to earn a living including the compromises photographers sometimes have to make.

“I’ll correct that, you’re vaguely right, and incredibly wrong,” Donald Weber said in reply to a statement made by an audience member who said that Haviv had gone out and taken a photograph then sold it for advertising to Lockhead Martin. “Basically, he shot the photographs in Iraq for his own work, I think some of it was actually for People magazine and through his commercial agent – not through VII – an advertising agency bought that work not for Lockhead Martin – well some of it was for Lockhead Martin – but other work was for an internal campaign for the US Military. So it wasn’t like ‘here’s Lockhead Martin selling zyklon-B and I’m selling photographs to it’.

“There was an issue of transparency that he didn’t quite clarify his stance well enough,” Weber added. “But that’s kind of the murky thing right? You take a picture and photographers are control freaks but you can’t control where your pictures end up. Really. Unless you keep them in boxes and you have people knock on your little attic door and say can I have this picture.”

The issue of ethics was brought up earlier in the evening prompting the direct question about Haviv’s photograph. Photographer Carol Allen Storey who works with charities such as Save the Children and UNICEF was also part of the panel discussion and said: “The most important thing is an ethical decision…the reason why I have undertaken work for them is because there was a simpatico in terms of their ethics, their aims, what they were trying to do and achieve but some are better than others this is absolutely the truth.”

In conclusion about the situation with Haviv’s photograph, Weber said: “Especially now in the digital age, I’ve found photographs of mine in places that I never could expect so you have to be hyper-vigilant and I think in this case Ron wasn’t hyper vigilant about where is pictures end up… It seems to me like a bit of a witch-hunt – but that’s my opinion.

“If you have a public persona that ‘I’m a war photographer and I don’t believe in war, I think war is bad’ then you’ve got to be not just vigilant but hyper-vigilant about where those pictures are going. In my agency we have a little thing in the meta-data…that says you can’t use this picture either without my express permission so I know where it goes or you can’t use it at all. So there are little ways that you can control, but what’s stopping someone just downloading the picture?”

The debate continues…

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