It’s Not About an Addiction to Danger

Over at The Guardian, Sean Smith talks about why photojournalists have to put themselves in danger.

War photographers don’t do this because they’re addicted to danger. They’re just like any journalist who wants to do their job well, and they see no romance in it. You certainly think about the risks – last year, Sunday Mirror photographer Phil Coburn lost both his legs and reporter Rupert Hamer was killed in Afghanistan – but ultimately you decide that it’s more important to examine the world we live in.

There are, of course, adrenaline junkies chasing wars around the world. I have little use for them, but Hetherington and Hondros – and many others – are looking for a true understanding of our world, not just a graphic image with their byline on it and a story to tell at the bar.

Sean Elliot, president of the National Press Photographers Association and a close friend, wrote about the deaths of Chris Hondros and Time Hetherington yesterday. In it, he talked about his local readers who complain about stories of destruction and death, that they are too dark and they don’t want to read about these things over breakfast.

I would argue that my morning corn flakes have no meaning if they are part of a routine that keeps me insulated from the troubles of the world.

In what world do you choose to live? One that is so narrowly focused that you cannot appreciate or comprehend anything beyond your own personal vision? Or one in which you care about all of humanity? One in which you want to know – need to know – what is happening in our world?

As Smith says, it is, “important to examine the world we live in.” What separates us, humans, from all other creatures is our desire to better our lives, to work as a society for the betterment of all, to have not just sympathy but empathy. And to do something about it.

How can we act on things we know nothing about?

I have never had a desire to cover war. I despise violence. I tried, through my work, to show the good in society, to show what happens when people help each other. To show empathy, to show compassion, to show the need, cause and results of change. And I was able to do that because colleagues of mine, elsewhere, were pointing out the wrongs of the world to strike a balance with the rights of the world I tried to share.

Mark E. Johnson

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