Discussion: Moral Obligations
The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) states that the primary role of photojournalists is to “report visually on the significant events and varied viewpoints in our common world.” The profession of photojournalism is guided by a code of ethics that outlines the standards and aspirational goals of the profession. The NPPA Code states, among other items, that visual journalists should “[t]reat all subjects with respect and dignity” but must also “[n]ot intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or influence events” (2012).
In this Discussion, you consider the Kantian perspective regarding the situation surrounding a famous photograph taken by a South African photojournalist named Kevin Carter. In 1993, Carter visited the Sudan, which was, at the time, experiencing famine and a civil war. Carter felt the world was ignoring the dire circumstances of the Sudanese people and hoped to use his photography to bring attention to their plight.
Carter was successful in focusing the world’s attention on Sudan when the New York Times published his photo of a young, dying Sudanese child crawling on the ground to a feeding station while a vulture waited in the background. Carter won the Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for his photograph that spurred many to take actions to alleviate the suffering of the Sudanese people. However, Carter’s photograph also spurred an angry controversy as people criticized Carter for taking a photograph of a suffering child while doing nothing to help her. It is important to note that Carter waited a long time for the vulture to spread its wings to get a better photo. When it did not, he took the picture and shooed the bird away, but he did not pick the child up and take it to the feeding station. Instead, he sat beneath a tree and wept.
Carter’s photograph reported the news; it accurately reflected what was occurring in the Sudan. Was Carter obligated to do more? For this week’s Discussion, you analyze the Kantian position on Kevin Carter and the circumstances surrounding his controversial photograph. You also explain whether you agree with the Kantian position.
To prepare for this Discussion:
- Read Chapter 6 in the course text, focusing on the definitions of moral obligation and the categorical imperative. Also consider how Kantians distinguish between right and wrong.
- View Kevin Carter’s photograph and consider how his actions would be viewed from a Kantian perspective.
By Day 3
Post a 2-paragraph explanation of what Carter’s duty was toward the child in the photograph, using Kant’s categorical imperative to justify your position. Then, state whether you agree with the Kantian position, explaining why you do or do not agree. Include ethics-related terms in your post, and be sure to support your ideas by connecting them to the week’s Learning Resources. Practice APA style for your in-text citations.