Photojournalists debate ethics of Instagram, Hipstamatic

Nick Stern reignited the conversation about whether photojournalists should use image-filtering apps with his CNN post arguing that Instagram and Hipstamatic photos cheat viewers. Of particular interest was this line:

Every time a news organization uses a Hipstamatic or Instagram-style picture in a news report, they are cheating us all. It’s not the photographer who has communicated the emotion into the images. It’s not the pain, the suffering or the horror that is showing through. It’s the work of an app designer in Palo Alto who decided that a nice shallow focus and dark faded border would bring out the best in the image. … The image never existed in any other place than the eye of the app developer.

Stern had little backup among commenters on his CNN post. One of the more substantial comments came from a user named Paul M. Watson:

Back in the film days photographers chose films for warmth or coolness, grain, sharpness and a host of other creative differences.You chose lenses based on what looks good to you, not just by looking at MTF graphs. You choose your focal length to compress or expand your field of view, your aperture for your depth of view and many other creative choices when taking your serious man photos. You probably like the bokeh of one lens over another and that impacts on your choices.

You are fooling yourself if you think your generation of photography is in anyway more real than any other generation of photography.

Stern’s post provoked more discussion on Twitter, which in this case turned out to be more nuanced than most of the comments on the post (selected posts after the jump). || Related: Don’t start looking through this catalog of photo-doctoring throughout history if you want to get anything done this afternoon. (Fourandsix)

Here’s what people said on Twitter about Stern’s post:

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  • Sean Scully

    I am no fan of Instagram and such things from an artistic point of view, but let’s be honest: No photograph has ever existing outside of the context of the photographer, his perspective, his equipment, and his choices as a darkroom/computer tech. So long as a photographer is not grossly manipulating the content of a shot, I fail to get excessively outraged.