Zackary Canepari has a pretty big problem. At the ripe old age of 30 or so, he is likely now persona non-grata at the New York Times, and his journalistic ethics will also likely give other editorial publications pause to hire him.
PDNPulse first reported, in New York Times Withdraws Posed News Photo (5/19/08), about the photo above, and the Times' withdrawal of the photograph, including an apology that PDN ran.
What was this photographer thinking when he staged a news photo?
While we have not spoken to Zack, his Lightstalkers page shows he's been in and out of India and the Middle East for almost two years, and according to Verve Photo, in this article Zack Canepari - The New Breed of Documentary Photographers (2/27/09), he's been a photographer since 2003. Canepari started doing portraits - making images happen, not standing back and waiting for them to happen.
Unfortunately, when publications pay a pittance for their photographers, and do not pay a living wage, the photographers with the integrity necessary to work for the top publications in the world do other things - their own projects, books, commercial work, and so on. Heck, even a few teach classes and workshops. Because the New York Times has not, well, pardon the pun, kept up with the times, in terms of pay, they have reapt what they have sown. I would not be surprised that there are others they didn't catch, and in an era where photographers are driven to compete, whether Zack's posed photo, which is over the line, to the Reuters photographer with the "enhanced" smoke , which is egregiously over the line, until photographers are paid fairly enough that they can do their jobs - and, it should be said, are staffers with job security, pressures like this will continue to errode the public's trust in journalistic works. The problem is, once people realize this and think about course-correcting, it will be too late, and visual journalism will have been dealt a mortal blow around the world.
If, as Verve Photo suggests, Zack is "the new breed of documentary photography", the world of photojournalism is in dire straits indeed.
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