TIME Behind the Photos

Why Violent News Images Matter

Fred Ritchin discusses the graphic display of war and suffering in the news

A recent slew of situations resulting in catastrophic violence and death, including the Israel-Gaza war, the armed expansion of the Islamic State, the downing of a Malaysian Airlines plane in the Ukraine, the ongoing conflict in Syria, and also the spread of the Ebola virus, has led to a renewed debate as to what kinds of imagery media outlets should be expected to show.

Crash Malaysian airways uvraine
Jerome Sessini—MagnumThe remains of a passenger on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 that was shot over eastern Ukraine, July 17, 2014.

One argument is that editors working for mainstream outlets, and perhaps even photographers as well, are unethically withholding from readers certain horrific imagery of contemporary conflicts and disasters because of a fear of offending or shocking, or even from a fear that readers will abandon the publication altogether. In his new book, War Porn, photographer Christoph Bangert asks: “How can we refuse to acknowledge a mere representation—a picture—of a horrific event, while other people are forced to live through the horrific event itself?”

Kenneth Jarecke, author of an excruciating photograph of a horribly burned Iraqi soldier during the first Persian Gulf War that went largely unpublished, posed a similar question in American Photo magazine in 1991: “If we’re big enough to fight a war, we should be big enough to look at it.”

There is, concurrently, a fear by others that readers are seeing too many such images and, as a result, are losing their ability to empathize and evaluate what is going on in the avalanche of violence and destruction depicted. Some editors also assert that, as family publications, the added risk of traumatizing children argues against the publication of the most egregious imagery.

Professionals may be at risk as well. A recent, first-ever study concentrates on 116 journalists working in three international newsrooms who are repeatedly exposed to images of graphic violence via social media, much of it “deemed too shocking to be shown to audiences.” The study, led by Anthony Feinstein, MD, of the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto, concludes, as summarized by the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, “that frequent, repetitive viewing of violent news-related video and other media raises news professionals’ vulnerability to a range of psychological injury, including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

A debate over what to publish is, of course, somewhat anachronistic given the propensity of social media sites to publish nearly anything and everything, but relevant nonetheless, given that many professional photographers and picture editors continue to support an effort to witness and represent world events in a reasoned way. As the Guardian’s head of photography, Roger Tooth, recently wrote, “But, in the end, what right do I have as a picture editor to censor what people can see? It’s all out there on the internet or on your timeline. All I can do is try to help keep the Guardian’s coverage as humane and decent as possible.”

Liberia Battles Spreading Ebola Epidemic
John Moore—Getty ImagesA corpse lies in a classroom now used as Ebola ward on Aug. 15, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia.

As for myself, I have also been torn by a different set of questions: Why shouldn’t we be able to view, in the supermarkets themselves, photographs and videos that depict the conditions in which chickens and cows are held—before we purchase their eggs, milk, and meat? And when we buy sweatshirts and sneakers shouldn’t there be photo essays available that explore the conditions in which these products are made, and by whom, so that we can make informed choices based in part upon the well-being of the workers in the factories? Or when we fill a prescription at the pharmacy, shouldn’t the lab monkeys and rats who suffered, often egregiously, to aid in the creation of these life-saving drugs be somehow pictured, at least as a mark of respect?

Why focus then on the imagery of war, but circumvent so much of the enormous day-to-day suffering among both humans and animals? Why, for example, is there no similar clamor to be confronted with the images of civilians and soldiers who, years later, must contend with their own chronic injuries that resulted from previous conflicts? Or why don’t we demand to see the faces of those politicians who sent the soldiers to war, and not only the victims of their policies?

I suspect that part of the answer as to why we have such a fascination with viewing large-scale violence is its contested, apocalyptic nature, as if a struggle for good against evil might be being played out before the camera, with elements of heroism, bravery, betrayal, and cowardice, and with winners and losers. Certainly war, with its arresting imagery of bombs exploding, landscapes transformed, and soldiers and civilians facing cataclysmic injury and sudden death, can be highly visible and, as a result, vividly photographable. War can be made to appear as a variegated spectacle, whereas a chicken placed in a cage so that is has no room to turn lacks the potential for incandescent visuals or for redemptive glory (and we are the ones eating those chickens and their eggs). And, of course, viewing animals kept in such conditions could be devastating for the marketing of industrial farming; especially when it happens to other people, war may stimulate the economy.

SYRIA-CONFLICT
Zein Al-Rifai—AFP/Getty ImagesA Syrian woman and youths, one of them carrying a wounded baby, flee the site of a reported barrel-bomb attack by Syrian government forces in the northern city of Aleppo on June 26, 2014.

But I suspect that there is another very powerful reason why photographers, in particular, might clamor for others to see the worst of what they have experienced in wartime. Despite serious misgivings about invading the privacy of others, photographers have often maintained that they feel it necessary to witness and represent the deaths, calamitous injuries and grief that they discover in conflict situations, and in many cases have been asked to do so by those who are its victims. Once those pictures are made, however, the implicit contract is that they be transmitted and seen by others, especially by those who may have even a small chance of preventing such tragedies from continuing or from multiplying. If these pictures remain unpublished there may be a guilty sense that a promise, a redemptive one, has not been kept. The trauma of witnessing such devastation, and the powerlessness that may accompany it, can be more difficult to resolve if one is prevented from sharing what one has seen with others—the reason the photographer was there in the first place.

As for the readers, though, it may not always be doing them a service to burden them with one’s own most visceral sense of horror, at least not on a continual basis. Whereas a grieving mother in Gaza deserves the whole world’s attention, so too do the families of those who died in the Malaysian Airlines crash, as do Yazidi survivors who endured the terror of the Islamic State fighters while hiding on a mountaintop. Should a large number of those victimized by violence be confronted by a reader looking at one wrenching image after another, without sufficient political recourse to ameliorate the great majority of what is depicted, the larger world may seem so senseless and repugnant that the reader tries to disconnect—hardly the result that an eyewitness would want.

CENTRAFRICA-UNREST
Issouf Sanogo—AFP/Getty ImagesMembers of the Central African Armed Forces (FACA) lynch a man suspected of being a former Seleka rebel on Feb. 5, 2014, in Bangui.

Personally I find that I cannot look at every image of disaster that is published, and I try not to. A memory of those killed in the Malaysian Airlines crash is powerfully within me; I do not need photographs of covered bodies or children’s toys to make the loss of their lives more searingly awful. I do not need to see every funeral from Gaza to imagine the abject, enduring void left by their loss. Nor do I need a picture to explain what it is like for the Yazidi to hide from armed men who are bent upon their further destruction, considering them heretics—thinking about their anguished solitude gives me nightmares enough.

But whether I look at these photographs or not their existence remains important; they provide reference points for both the present and the longer view of history. Whatever pictures I see, I can imagine so many that I have not looked at and so many more agonizing moments of private torment that will never be witnessed. Whatever publications show, I know that the ramifications of the pictures are probably much, much more complex than could be contained in the fractional second depicted. This awareness is also fueled by social media—one knows that the descent into hell takes many steps, and an increasing number of them can be found only a click or two away from what mainstream media presents.

There is no calculus to determine the most effective way to show horror. But certainly it would be important to investigate the processes that engender it, and not just the shocking results, no matter how visual. It would be also helpful to begin to try and trace alternatives to such catastrophes, and to provide examples of even partial resolutions. Then show those who must endure the traumas of war once the spectacle has faded—the physically and psychologically wounded, orphans, widows, parents left without children—and remember them in the years to come. And, finally, begin contemplating the best of the “photography of peace,” and not only that of war—the beauties of ceasefires, and of healing, and of some of the horrors that were prevented from happening.

Fred Ritchin is a professor at NYU and co-director of the Photography & Human Rights program at the Tisch School of the Arts. His latest book, Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary, and the Citizen, was published by Aperture in 2013

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Revisit the Romantic Ghosts of Brangelina’s Past

What's past is prologue

It’s hard to think back to the days before “Brangelina” was a thing. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who tied the knot over the weekend amid friends and family in France, have been together for about a decade and are raising six children together. And though the beginning of their relationship was fraught with scandal — they met and fell in love on the set of 2005’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith, when Pitt was still married to Jennifer Aniston — the waters have appeared, to admiring fans at any rate, to be smooth ever since.

Still, before they came together, Pitt and Jolie had some rocky romances over the years — some strange (Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina’s wearing each other’s blood in vials), some irritating (Gwyneth Paltrow and Brad’s matching hairstyles), and some forgotten (Brad Pitt dated Robin Givens?).

Here’s a gallery that raises a glass to the phrase, what’s past is prologue.

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The People and Animals With the Best Shark Costumes for Shark Week

The outfits are so cute, we can only hope they live EVERY week like it's Shark Week

In case you were unaware, it’s officially Shark Week, Discovery Channel’s annual deluge of shark-related programming. Some people — like, for example, scientists who actually know things about sharks — are not super into this annual sharkstravaganza, claiming that it peddles fiction disguised as fact. But others — you know, the rest of us plebs who just thinks sharks are super awesome — are still pretty into the whole thing.

And so, we’d like to take a moment to pay tribute to the especially die-hard Shark Week fans: the people (and animals) who’ve dressed up like sharks to mark the occasion. We can only hope that these folks are truly taking to heart that age-old advice to “live every week like it’s Shark Week.” We have a feeling they are.

Who else is a big fan of @discoverychannel's @sharkweek? ✋ #sharkweek #sharkweekfanboy #extrasharky #extrasmiley

A photo posted by #wallymonster (@wallythewelshcorgi) on

#lucibryn the chubby cheek #shark for #sharkweek

A photo posted by #LuciBryn (@lucibryn) on

#sharkweek #richardthedog

A photo posted by meganrfitzpatrick (@meganrfitzpatrick) on

I love #SharkWeek and #sharkafterdark #spawnofpaws I hope I make it on tv!!! =^..^=

A photo posted by Tara The Cat (@the_tara_cat) on

Because #sharkweek

A photo posted by Ashley Erickson (@ashsaysom) on

The tripawd shark in her natural habitat (Sadie is such a trooper, I couldn't stop laughing!) #SHARKWEEK

A photo posted by Vine: Sadie Tripawd (@sadietripawd) on

Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water….Happy Shark Week! #sharkweek

A photo posted by ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀Emily Maksimowicz (@emilyruth_mak) on

 

TIME How-To

The Best Photo-Sharing Sites

Digital cameras and smartphones mean that most of us have a ton of photos scattered everywhere, from phones and computer hard drives to Facebook and Instagram profiles.

But what happens when you switch phones, upgrade computers or simply want to search all your photos at once?

Uploading pictures to a photo sharing site is a simple way to answer all those questions—and the services offer lots of other benefits, as well. You can organize large photo collections, make it easier for friends and family to contribute to shared albums and ensure your pictures stay with you no matter which device they came from.

There are four main criteria to think about when picking the best site for your needs:

1. Cost of storage. First you need to figure out how much memory you’ll need. This is largely determined by where most of your pictures come from. Smartphone photos can range from 500KB to 2MB in size, while photos from point-and-shoot cameras are usually 1-5MB, depending on the megapixel count of the camera. Choose lower storage limits at first; you can always pay for more when you need it.

2. Automatic photo sync. If you take a lot of photos, a service that syncs images automatically via a smartphone app or folder on your desktop can take out the hassle out of backing up.

3. Privacy. Do you want complete control over who can see your pictures? Family albums, for instance, might benefit from a site that keep albums password protected.

4. Full-size upload and download. If you want to back up a collection or print your photos, find a service that allows full-resolution uploads and downloads. Some services downsize photos for quicker uploads.

Below are our favorite sites and their best features. Let us know what you think – and what you use – in the comments.

Photobucket: Great for Editing

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Photobucket

If your smartphone doesn’t offer much in the way of touch-up tools – or if you’re transferring pics from a digital camera – you may want to check out photo services with basic editing tools built in. Stalwart photo-sharing site Photobucket offers an intuitive image editor with simple features, such as red-eye removal, sharpening and cropping. You can also add splashes of color to a black and white photo, try out vintage-style filters and draw or write on pictures.

You can upload photos from Facebook, your computer, or other websites. You can also create shared albums where friends can contribute photos, video and text of their own. Albums can be posted to Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Photobucket has a large community of users who post pictures to a public photo feed with tons of interest tags and trending topics, so it’s also a good option if you want your albums to reach more than friends and family.

The site also has its own photo-printing service to reproduce images for framed prints, canvas wraps, photo books and even blankets and shower curtains.

Cost of storage: 2GB free, with an additional 8GB if you use the Photobucket app; prices range from 20GB for $2.99/month ($29.99/year) up to 500GB for $39.99/month ($399.99 a year)
Automatic photo sync? Yes, with desktop computer and iPhone/Android apps
Do you need an account to view photos? No
Privacy control: You can add a password to albums or choose to make them visible only to you
Full-size uploads/downloads? Yes

Flickr: Great for Large Photo Collections

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Flickr

The grandaddy of photo-sharing sites, Flickr offers 1TB of storage for free (which can hold some 2 million photos) with no limit on picture resolution. Users can also upload 1080p high-definition video clips up to three minutes long.

Users can organize pictures into collections and sub-collections, with options to tag keywords and people either individually or in batches of photos. You can search your library by keyword or people tags and sort by dates that pictures were posted or taken—a godsend when a lifetime’s worth of photos start to stack up.

Flickr displays photos in a minimalist grid with a slideshow option. The site also offers the same beginner-friendly image editor as Photobucket, with Instagram-style color filters, cutesy effects like frames and stickers and basic editing tools, such as contrast, saturation and focus tweaks.

You can upload photos via email, the website, or directly from the Flickr smartphone app and share albums on Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and Twitter. Avid photographers will have a huge audience in the Flickr community, who post 3000 photos every minute on average.

Cost of storage: Free, with 1TB of storage and displayed ads; $49.99 a year for ad-free version
Automatic photo sync? Yes, through the Flickr smartphone app for iPhone and Android
Do you need an account to view photos? No
Privacy control: You can choose the audience for every photo as friends, family, public or only you (adding contacts allows you to set them as friends or family)
Full-size uploads/downloads? Yes

Yogile: Great for Collaborative Sharing

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Yogile

If you’re hosting an event where many people will be taking photos, such as a wedding, Yogile is a simple way to create a shared gallery where everyone can upload their photos without the need to sign up for an account. Once you create the gallery, attendees have two upload options: Upload images directly to a custom URL or reply to a Yogile-generated email with photos attached. You are given a link where attendees can go to upload or email their own photos.

This no-frills service has no editing options except for changing captions and photographer credits. You can sort photos by date or by contributor and anyone with access to the album can download full-size images. A slideshow option is a neat way to watch the story of the event unfold, as each photographer’s pictures intermix into the correct chronological order.

Cost of storage: $44.95 per year for unlimited uploads; free for 100MB worth of uploads a month, but albums automatically delete after 14 days
Automatic photo sync? No
Do you need an account to view photos? No
Privacy control: You can add a password to your gallery.
Full-size uploads/downloads? Yes

500px: Great for Discovery

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500px

This sleekly designed site is all about its striking photography. You’ll find no family pics or collections of vacation snaps on 500px; instead there are highly edited shots of landscapes, animals and beautiful people, displayed in a minimal, endlessly-flowing grid.

You can upload pictures from your computer or import them from Dropbox, Facebook, Instagram and more. You can add keyword tags to make your photos easier to find.

Once you pick a couple categories you’re interested in, say People or Macro, 500px will try to match you with other users whose tastes match yours. When you start following particular categories and photographers, your homepage (called “Flow”) will display pictures that your contacts have liked or commented on. You can also browse through dozens of themes, including Abstract, Street or Journalism.

For pro users, premium accounts come with a portfolio website. 500px also offers the chance to buy – or sell – photos as wall art or stock photography.

Cost of storage: Free for 20 uploads a week; plans from $2.08/month allow unlimited uploads and the ability to organize photos into sets
Automatic photo sync? No
Do you need an account to view photos? No
Privacy control: You can upload pictures privately so that only you see them; otherwise they are publicly visible by default.
Full-size uploads/downloads? Yes

Shutterfly: Great for Photo Products

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Shutterfly

Shutterfly offers a creative range of photo gifts, including metal prints, wooden wall art and battery cases for smartphones. There’s also the usual lineup of personalized stationary, crockery, blankets and cushions, as well as kiddy-oriented products like lunch bags, puzzles and books customized with your little one’s face throughout their pages.

Even if you don’t purchase any photo prints, Shutterfly is a good option for collating your photo collection online, as it offers unlimited storage with no restrictions on the size of photos uploaded and the ability to import pictures directly from Facebook, Instagram, iPhoto, Google+ Photos and Adobe Photoshop. You can also send pictures through iPad, iPhone or Android apps.

Once pictures are uploaded, you can send a link to the gallery via email or Facebook for friends to view. Anyone who can view your album can also order prints of the pictures in it. For collaborative albums, you can create a “Share” micro-site for group members to upload photos and share calendars, messages and polls.

Cost of storage: Free, with unlimited storage; signing up gets you 50 free prints
Automatic sync? No
Do you need an account to view photos? No
Privacy control: Albums are private by default and Share sites are limited to their members.
Full-size uploads/downloads? Yes

ThisLife: Great for Collating Diverse Sets of Photos

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ThisLife

If your pictures are scattered throughout the Internet, photo aggregator ThisLife can import and organize them. The service links with Flickr, Instagram, Facebook, Picasa and SmugMug to pull in all your photos and sort them by date and place. You can upload full resolution pictures directly from your computer and premium accounts support high-definition video, as well.

Photos are privately displayed in a timeline and can be further organized by category and people tags. You can also search by information in the image metadata (the camera used to snap the photo), its original source and the keywords associated with it (Instagram hashtags).

You can also organize pics into “Story” galleries that you can then share via email. Since the service is owned by Shutterfly, you can also create prints and other photo gifts of your pictures.

Cost of storage: Free up to 2,500 photos; $59/year for 25,000 photos; $139/year for 100,000 photos
Automatic photo sync? Yes, through a desktop folder or the Instagram app
Do you need an account to view photos? No
Privacy control: Only friends with the link to the gallery can view it; however there’s no password protection
Full-size uploads/downloads? Yes

Google+ Photos: Great for Slideshows

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Google+

A lot of photo-sharing sites offer a slideshow feature, but Google+ Photos throws in some unique auto-create options for photos taken with an iPhone or Android phone.

If you turn on auto back up and location history in the Google+ app, Google will collate a “Story” slideshow based on pictures snapped while you’re away from your usual haunts—that is, when it thinks you’re on vacation.

If you take a set of similar photos—say, on burst mode—the Auto Awesome feature turns the images into a mini-animation, viewable from the website or app. If you’re on an Android phone (OS version 4.3 or newer), there’s an additional Movie feature that can stitch together a movie from photos and videos you select.

You can also upload photos from your smartphone or computer and manually create albums. Photos can be as public or private as you want; users of the Google+ social network can set which Circles can view the photos, or simply email friends a link to the gallery. The photo viewer offers sharing and editing options, as well as a slideshow view.

Cost of storage: Free for unlimited photos at Google’s downsized “standard” size, which is sufficient for web sharing, or 15GB of full-size pictures (storage shared with Google Drive and Gmail accounts); from $1.99/month for 100GB, up to $299.99/month for 30TB
Automatic photo sync? Yes, option to sync to a private album via a desktop folder and iPhone/Android apps
Do you need an account to view photos? No
Privacy control: You can set the audience for the photo album and prevent others from sharing the album.
Full-size uploads/downloads? Yes, but full-resolution photos count against storage limit

Zenfolio: Great for Professionals

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Zenfolio

Built to host portfolios rather than photo feeds, Zenfolio offers sleek homepage layouts to show off your best images and a blog where you can easily upload photos and videos as you go.

There’s no limit on the size or number of photos you can upload, so it’s a good tool to store ultra-high resolution images taken with a DSLR.

You can sort photos into galleries that have searchable descriptions and category and keyword tags. Photos can be viewed as an elegant slideshow in which you control the background music and the player’s speed and transitions.

Zenfolio supports plug-ins to transfer pictures from professional photo-management software, such as Adobe Lightroom and Aperture. For pros who want to sell their prints, there’s the option to build in a shopping cart, as well guestbook and contact pages.

Cost of storage: $30/year for 2GB of storage, plus an additional 1GB for every year you hold an account; $60/year for unlimited storage; from $140/year to add selling features
Automatic photo sync? No
Do you need an account to view photos? No
Privacy control: You can add a password to a gallery to keep it private
Full-size uploads/downloads? Yes

Facebook: Great for Social Sharing

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Facebook

If you simply want your photos stored where it’s easy for friends to see them and share them with other friends, then Facebook might the best place to upload your camera work. You get unlimited uploads, a high likelihood that the person you want to tag is also on the network (something that the fuller-featured, lesser-used Google+ cannot claim) and a simple interface for liking and commenting on photos.

You can send individual pictures by private message, or share a particular photo publicly on a friend’s wall. Each album also has the option to be turned into a shared album, allowing multiple friends to add to the gallery.

The downside, as with all things Facebook, is that it isn’t possible to be truly private. Even if your album visibility is set to friends-only, photos tagged with friends’ names are still viewable to all their friends (unless they’ve set their privacy so that no one can see their photos), which could be a turnoff if you’re looking to share family albums.

Uploaded photos are limited to 2048 pixels wide, so high-resolution pictures off a camera will be downsized and therefore less suitable for printing.

Cost of storage: Free, with unlimited uploads
Automatic photo sync? Yes, option to sync privately from smartphone apps, then you choose which ones to share
Do you need an account to view photos? Yes
Privacy control: At your most private settings, friends of anyone tagged in a photo will be able to see that photo.
Full-size uploads/downloads? No

This article was written by Natasha Stokes and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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