Does this photo offend you?

Post by Jason Plotkin

Sometimes I take a photo, that, in my mind, is innocent enough, but in some way or another, offends someone. I once took a picture of a woman in a hospital room eating dinner and did not realized that, on a chair in the background, her underwear were draped over it. Another time, I photographed a group of war veterans from the shoulders down to exaggerate their medals and the fact the they were all either standing with the help of walkers or a cane.
In both situations, the paper received multiple phone calls from people complaining. In the first photo, they were offended by the sight of this woman’s underwear. In the other, it was felt that I disrespected the veterans by not showing their faces. In both situations, it was suggested that I go back to photography school and learn to take good pictures.
Sometimes I take photographs trying to be creative and sometimes, I don’t notice everything that is in the frame. I don’t always know what will offend people, so it is at times, it’s helpful to ask others if they think people might get angry by a photo I took.
Last Monday night I photographed a double header for the YAIAA girls soccer quarterfinals at Northeastern. In addition to the four photographs I submitted to the paper, I put in an additional 25 pictures from each game. One of the photos is the one below. Although, in my mind, it is just a neat action shot of two players fighting for possession of the ball, I wasn’t sure if the leg extended between the legs of the player in front, might upset someone. I asked a colleague and she believed it would be taken in the vein in which it was presented. I hoped so.
As of this blog, we had not gotten any complaints that I was aware of. But, you never know, maybe next week I’ll be sent back to photo school.
In addition to the image below, here are the links to the additions photographs from the Susquehannock vs. Eastern York game and the York Suburban vs. Red Lion match up.

4 Responses to Does this photo offend you?

  1. Lisa Linton says:

    I do not find this offensive at all. I think it is a great picture, great action shot. Unfortunately, photography like any other form of art is not always going to be viewed the way we intend. I don’t think you need to go back to photo school ;-). I think you are awesome at what you do.

  2. Jeremy says:

    It’s not offensive at all. In fact I thought exactly what you thought. “it is just a neat action shot of two players fighting for possession of the ball”

  3. Blake Stough says:

    All I see is a great shot taken at just the right moment. It reminds me of one I took at my daughter’s field hockey game. The ball just slamed into a player’s shin guard when I took the photograph.

    Great capture Jason.

  4. Brad says:

    I am one of Jason’s editors.

    The interesting concept surrounding some of these conversations is one of distraction. In Jason’s example of the woman in the hospital whose underwear was hanging up in the background, what we need to ask ourselves is not so much, “Are you offended?” but “Are you distracted?” In other words, will the reader’s eye and thoughts go right to the underwear, so that the reader never gets to the part of the photo we are intending to be the focus. If that happens, we’ve failed the reader.

    That doesn’t mean we shy away from photos that could possibly offend or distract some person somewhere. Instead, we try to anticipate the reaction of the average person, or in some cases, we try to put ourselves in the shoes of the person in the photo.

    For example, many high school wrestling photos feature athletes in strange, contorted body positions that would make some people giggle. But if other high school wrestlers were to see those photos, they would probably focus on the tactics being employed by the athletes at that moment. So, no distraction for that photo’s audience.

    It’s an inexact science for sure, but it is something we discuss when we notice it.

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A picture may be worth a thousand words, but there is often more to say about a great photograph. The York Daily Record's award-winning visual staff offers a peek behind the lens and into the process of capturing, editing and publishing their most interesting photographs, video stories and more.
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