Photographers field questions on ethics

Panellists give their take on how their practice and craft are evolving

(From left) Moderator Desmond Lim of ST and the photojournalists, Ms Sim, Mr Sarker and Mr Muller, at last night's panel discussion, which was attended by more than 150 members of the public.
(From left) Moderator Desmond Lim of ST and the photojournalists, Ms Sim, Mr Sarker and Mr Muller, at last night's panel discussion, which was attended by more than 150 members of the public. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

The practice and craft of photography have changed in the digital age, bringing new ethical quandaries that have yet to be settled.

Acclaimed documentary photographers Sim Chi Yin, Sarker Protick and Pete Muller gave their takes on the evolving relationship between photography and the questions of right and wrong at a panel discussion attended by more than 150 members of the public last night.

Among the issues that drew candid responses was the question of whether setting pictures up and passing them off as found moments could be deemed ethical. Traditionally, staging or setting up a photo is not allowed in the world of news photography, unless it is a portrait.

Mr Muller, whose work revolves around conflict and violence in Africa, stressed the need for a professional photographer to fully disclose the conditions that might have interfered with a press image.

For example, images of armed men often proliferate in visual representations of Somalia - but some of the armed men might have appeared accidentally in a photograph as they were part of a journalist's personal security team, and that should be disclosed.

"The image of a person on the street with a gun creates a very strong idea," said Mr Muller, 34.

  • Discussions, talks and tours

  • Jan 29 - Feb 21

    • National Museum of Singapore,The Concourse (Level 1) and The Canyon (Basement 1). Address: •93 Stamford Road, Singapore 178897

    • Open daily, 10am-7pm

    • Free admission

    Guided tours

    • Every Saturday and Sunday, 11am and 2pm (Limited to 20 people for each session, registration on site)


    Admission is free but pre-registration is required

    • Saturday, Jan 30, 10am: Ground Up: Telling Stories From The Grassroots by Sim Chi Yin

    • Saturday, Jan 30, 12pm: Men, Masculinity And Violence: A Case Study In Eastern Congo by Pete Muller

    • Saturday, Jan 30, 2pm: Approach & Engagement by Sarker Protick

    Saturday, Feb 6, 11am:

    • Shooting Singapore by Desmond Lim

    • Sea, Air And Land by Alphonsus Chern

    Sunday, Feb 14, 11am:

    • Behind The Scenes Of Disaster Reportage by Kevin Lim

    • Evolution Of Newspaper Photographers by Neo Xiaobin

    To register and for more details, go to

Another topic was the issue of photographing victims of sexual violence. While the faces of some of the women whom Mr Muller photographed while covering rape trials in Eastern Congo were shrouded to protect their identity, there was also concern that this might perpetuate notions of shame and stigma.

The discussion kicked off a series of talks for the World Press Photo 2015 exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore. Sponsored by Canon, it is being presented by The Straits Times (ST) for the second year running. The museum is the event's venue partner.

The exhibition features 145 winning images from the World Press Photo 2015 contest, as well as 13 of ST's best photojournalistic work from last year.

Ms Sim, Mr Muller and Mr Sarker will give talks today.

Sponsors for the speakers are political foundation Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, Newsplex Asia, Nanyang Technological University and the Singapore Press Club. Other partners include logistics company Famous Air & Sea Services , caterer Purple Sage, public relations firm Weber Shandwick and printing firm Photogenie.

Visitors stand a chance to win a one-night stay for two at The South Beach, the event's official hotel. Details are here.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2016, with the headline Photographers field questions on ethics. Subscribe