There are countless stories of photographers who question themselves about whether they should or should not press that shutter button. In some cases that decision has led the photographer to a Pulitzer prize. Others, to a controversial discussion about the ethics and responsibilities of the photographer. Photo ethics is even a topic of study for almost all photojournalism majors in college. Ultimately it really boils down to what risk the photographer is willing to take and then living with that decision after.
For most of us, as casual shooters not involved in the realm of journalism, the decision seldom, if ever, comes up. But it does happen. Take the events of 9-11 for instance. As the horrific scene of chaos unfolded almost every aspect of that day was captured by a camera. Not all of them were handled by professional journalists. I would even go out on a limb and guess the majority of the images from that day were from cell phones and point and shoots.
Large, drastic events that rock our modern world unfold in front of cameras all the time.Tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, war, famine, all manner of human casualties are fodder for the camera. There is an innate desire for all of us to "look at the accident scene" of life. We are visual people after all. It reaches a stronger emotion when we see the images of disaster rather than to read about them.
Then there is the question when we, as observers looking at an image that is so horrific and so emotionally charged, ask ourselves; "what would I have done in that situation?" As I said above, for most of us that situation never happens. But it could. Perhaps not on a grand global scale as a natural disaster or famine, but in smaller, more quiet ways. I asked myself that very question this past weekend. "Should I press the shutter, or not?"