My Generation
Stop Being Afraid

Bite the Hand

Kenneth Jarecke, Contact Press Images

I've been branded a bit of a heretic lately for suggesting that photojournalists should strive to not only tell the truth, but to make sure their photographs don't appear to be photoshopped re-creations of actual events.

I must tell you it feels... good.

There was a time in my career when I lived for stirring things up. I've forgotten how great it feels.

I first picked up a camera to do three things;

1) Make great pictures that I liked to look at.

2) Call attention to things that I thought were wrong with the world.

3) Meet hot chicks.

OK, admittedly I never completely thought through the third reason.

For the record, unless you're a British fashion photographer, or a French war photographer, it's pretty near impossible to look cool while making pictures. Also, as awesome as you may think it is to carry a Nikon F3-T (high eye-point and with a motor) everywhere you go, it gives women the (correct) impression that you are a geek.

Kenneth Jarecke, Contact Press Images

There was a time in my career, that I wouldn't hesitate to speak-out (in the most childish ways I could imagine) against anything I disagreed with.

Stuff like how editors used (or didn't) use my pictures.

I didn't worry about biting the hand.

There was always another editor or magazine I could work with. I also felt we were all in the business of telling the truth, so we should start with ourselves (yeah, maybe I didn't think that through so well either).

I'm not sure, nor do I want to know, how much this behavior hurt my career. I never gave that a thought . At some point I realized I was however, causing a lot of collateral damage for the people around me. People in the business that I cared about.

That wasn't the goal.

So around 1993 or maybe '94, I started to play nice. I started to try to keep my mouth shout and occasionally I even succeeded.

Big mistake.

Kenneth Jarecke, Contact Press Images

What good did it do?

The wonderful people in the business that I tried to help have mostly been fired at this point, and the craft of photojournalism, the very language of the medium has pretty much been destroyed.

Boy, I really missed a golden opportunity (at least a full decades worth) to be a real pain in the arse, as the great Philip Jones Griffiths once called me in a letter to the DoP of LIFE Magazine (got to frame that one of these days).

A pain that this business and the younger generation of shooters sourly needed (sometimes I just write things to make myself laugh).

Kenneth Jarecke, Contact Press Images

Of course, I wasn't the only one that kept my mouth shut, so I can't take all the blame.

There's a whole bunch of other shooters out there that played nice, when they should have been making a scene.

You see, the reason I could make all the trouble I did and still keep working is because I was giving the magazines great content, which was (way back in the 80's and 90's) what they depended on to stay in business.

Yes, there was a time when magazines wanted great content, and I was far from the worst of the prima-donnas.

So, the first time any of us said, "Thank you." for a two day assignment that should have taken two weeks.

The first time we said, "Oh, sure. That sweater is the wrong color, go ahead and change it in Photoshop."

The first time we said, "Hey kid, how'd you get those neat tones in the sky when you were shooting at high-noon?"

The first time we didn't say, "No, I'm a journalist. you are not allowed to publish my work if your director of photography reports to the art department."

The first time we didn't publicly humiliate a photo editor at a news magazine that asked us to "Just make it happen." when what they meant was "I don't care what the truth is, just give me the picture my boss wants."

The first time we reviewed a photojournalist student's portfolio that was a created fiction, and didn't drop it into the nearest wastebasket.

We failed.

We failed as individuals and as a profession.

The example set and the failure to act of the older generation (a group that had the power to say no because the magazines were in competition with each other over what we could deliver), has given us a generation of would-be photographers that really doesn't understand how valuable the credibility of a photojournalist's work really is, and will even argue against it.

Kenneth Jarecke, Contact Press Images

What did we hope to gain by playing nice, a big cover shoot that normally went to the obnoxious schmoozing guy?

What do you hope to get now, a half day to shoot a portrait of somebody you aren't even interested in?

It's time to start biting the hand again. At least for me, you do what you like, but I'm going to resume the truth telling. Besides, that's what I enjoy. That's (at least a third of) why I got into this business.

The magazines, although those in charge don't realize it, need great content more than we need the occasional day-rate they're doling out.

At some point, telling the truth is going to be cool again.


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Michal Daniel

I love you! But you knew that.


We'll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgment of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song

And the world looks just the same
And history ain't changed
'Cause the banners, they all flown in the last war

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
No, no!

I'll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I'll get all my papers and smile at the sky
For I know that the hypnotized never lie

Do ya?


There's nothing in the street
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Is now the parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again
No, no!


Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

Brian Snyder

Isn't part of telling the truth with our pictures ensuring that our images are not photoshopped to the point that they no longer represent the reality of what we saw? Sad and scary that this even needs to be stated; even sadder that anyone who thinks of themselves as a photojournalist could excuse or condone some of the recent examples of photoshop excess. Seriously folks. Thanks to Ken for calling a horse a horse here. I appreciate that Ken has not called the photographers involved bad people or anything of the sort - just said that they went too far in the cases of these photographs. And clearly articulated why they should not have; and why we all should guard against this in our own work.

Richard Wang

Ah crap!

Chicks don't dig big cameras.

Damn it that's the last time I listen to advice on

David Burnett

A once obvious, but now clearly forgotten fact: Chicks dig rewind knobs


thanks-- not anybody important, not even chick with big rig, just crapshooter--but I get tired of apologizing for my work because it isn't photoshopped to death. It's not for me. Small point, I shot a ring with 100mm 2.8 + 25II ext and revealed all ir bubbles, scratches, dings and dents into 1cm x 1.5 cm amethyst stone. First comment I got back was criticism that I didn't stamp out the settling dust motes on mirror. Duh? Is that what photography is about? maybe somebody can reverse engineer a smile into frown or change shape of catwalker's legs, but is that really photography? FDA requires content labelling on food, but what if the label is a lie? So although a nobody, I think I stick to my rules which are very very rudimentary. natural light, basic image.Make eye and image connect so that what I see is merged in eye of camera for end results. Is difficult, but goal is to create image of what I see in simple shot and not waste time after in editing. WYSIWYG. Photography is about mastering the art of the shot, not the remake of a shot. That's something like graphics.


To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth Act 5, scene 5, 19–28

Paul Indigo

Photographers have always looked for ways to enhance their images, lens choice, lighting, film choice, darkroom techniques (eg W. Eugene Smith spent days printing his images to get them right) and now Photoshop. But when enhancements get in the way of the facts that's when the PJ crosses an ethical line.

I agree with what you write here. And as photographers the only way to earn respect for our trade is to challenge the brief, use our brains and creativity and bring added value to every assignment. Meekly pushing the shutter button and doing what we are told is the surest way to devalue our profession.

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