Respectless photographers?

I seem to be months behind on this item of “news”. I actually spotted it a couple of weeks ago, but didn’t think it was that interesting. It seems as if people didn’t agree, as the topic is getting some serious discussion. Basically – a picture of a photographer in the middle of a marathon race is pissing off a lot of people.

On one hand, I can kind of see what is going on here. As Robert Capa said: “If the picture isn’t good enough, you’re not close enough”, and getting in the middle of a race is one way to get closer, I suppose… 


On the other hand, you are guest on somebody else’s path, and getting in the way of runners who are at the limit of their tiredness, and only want to make it to the finish line, is at best rude.

Now, I don’t know the circumstances around this photo, but would like to talk about it a little bit anyway. My reaction is different, based on if she is a commissioned photographer or an amateur. If the latter, she’s in the wrong place, and someone should have told her to shove off. I’m not sure about the outraged calls of “getting ticketed… or worse” in the Flickr discussion, though – a bit harsh, I feel. If there were so many people who were outraged about this behaviour, why didn’t they just tell her to move out of the way?

One commenter mentions:

To all of you taht seem to think that she has the right to do somehting like this…… WAKE UP!!

I mean really now, I don’t recall having ever seen a race of ANY sort that is INTENDED for photographers. If there were, I’m sure that it would be around the block and not 24k (or whatever). If you had the right as a photographer to do this, the nice telephotos would be cheaper, the sporting events would be shorter, and a good photo would be a dime a dozen. It’s just not a good shot if you ruin the event that would in fact MAKE it a good shot.

I agree to a large degree, but if she was, in fact, a press photographer, things could have been slightly different: This was in New York City, and if this was a photographer for the New York Times, I believe she had a bigger ‘right’ to be in the way, than Joanna Q Random, amateur photographer. Why? Well, photographers should never be part of the story, so those two photos in the Flickr stream shows she’s in the wrong, but perhaps she was photographing the event all day long, and that was the only time she was in the way?

Or maybe not: This is what the original poster said:

The whole thing took around 3 – 4 minutes and around 30 runners were inconvenienced (or that is how I saw it).

Having said that, though, Magnum agency sent a photographer along as well, and their photos look as if their photographer was on the road as well…

Obviously, the Flickr comment stream turned into a random slagging-off match, as one of the commenters notes:

All of these message boards and websites for photographers…and it seems like there’s a direct correlation between the level of professionalism exhibited in the comments and the actual professional status of the “photographer” posting. The cattier the comments, the less likely the poster is really a professional photographer.

Ultimately, I believe it all boils down to why you are there. If you are shooting for an important newspaper or magazine, your job is to represent the publication honourably (because you are their face to the world. If she was wearing a huge National Geographic jacket, people would have been more careful with their comments, but that doesn’t mean what she is doing is any better, from the runner’s viewpoint), but also to get the best photos possible.

If a wartime photographer has to risk his life for the best photo, that’s what he has to do. If a sports photographer has to inconvenience a runner or two in the course of her job, well then so be it.

Personally, I hate pissing people off, but there have been situations where the only way I could get the best shot was to elbow another photographer, push a policeman out of the way (!), and block off a road with my car. Granted, that was a one-off, and I seriously angered about 30 people that day, but I was the one who came home with the best photo, and nobody else’s pictures got used. Some times, being rude is a business decision…

What do you guys think? Good behaviour or bad behaviour, on her part? Vote in the poll, and leave a comment here or in the Flickr stream.


The NYC marathon photographer... Is she in the wrong or not?

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