Following my earlier post examining ethics in photojournalism, Ami Vitale responded.
On Sunday 14 May, @mariakaribu tweeted asking Ami Vitale why she was selling a picture of a 6 year old girl Awa, being cleaned with an alcohol swab the morning after being circumcised as a fine art print. Ami, @Amivee responded saying, NOT TRUE!! Images are not being sold as fine art!!
So why the absolute denial?
Well, this is where it gets a little confusing. Go to Ami’s website and when you click on ‘Shop,’ it’ll take you to a section that clearly states ‘Fine Art Prints.’ There’s some useful information here saying you can find other images in her archive.
“We can all surround ourselves with beautiful artwork and I am happy to ship to any place on the planet…just say where! Ami Vitale offers a curated collection of art from around the world or you can find an image in her diverse archive from over 90 countries.
It’s here that you could select images of Awa and Adema to buy as fine art prints as well as others.
Ami’s response is below:
Adema is not a stranger to me. She was a close friend and she was my sister’s best friend. That image of her swimming in the touffe was not an image of a girl who was suffering at that moment I photographed her. She was playing and then asked me to make a picture of her. I brought it back to her and she was proud and thought she looked beautiful. I felt the same but I know people see things differently. I never saw her as “impoverished and sad” and more importantly, she never saw herself as impoverished and sad. That is the worst part.
First and foremost, thank you to Ami for offering a detailed, and what looks like an honest response and for not passing the buck on to someone else although I’m not sure exactly who the ‘we’ refers to, I guess it could just be her style of writing.What’s clear is that it definitely pays to slow down and make sure we do things right rather than be in a hurry to get as much work out there as soon as possible, I think that’s a big problem these days.
I think the back end of your website needs tidying up a little. On many images the filenames are meaningless and some pictures are available to buy as fine art prints, others are not and some should not be.
You’ve spoken out a lot in the past about misrepresentation, well having incomplete and changing captions from one platform to the next is going to lead to just that. You’re not helping the situation and cries of misrepresentation then become hollow and meaningless. The captions on Alamy for example look as if you’ve run out of ink!
Consistency is important.
On Alexia’s website.
On your website.
For accurate captioning I’m sure you’ve heard of the five Ws. Of course you have, I don’t need to tell you that but it’s a good place to start.
I want to highlight the essential need to curate work carefully and appropriately for different platforms. We all suffer from image fatigue and it’s easy to get attached to the work we produce so it’s really useful to have a fresh pair of eyes look at it. Ask someone who’s not afraid to criticise you. That’s not a bad thing if it’s done correctly, it’s how we grow.
Beyond careful curating, you as the author of your work, are also responsible for stipulating how your work can be used. When I found your work on Alamy, no restrictions were in place and I was free to select advertising as the industry for many of your images. Again this comes back to misrepresentation.
Once again, thank you to Ami for taking the time to respond.