About Honesty in Image-Making

From time to time, the ugly pendulum of dishonesty swings from obscurity to the spotlight in the photographic industry. I'm not sure which stage of that swing scares me most as an emerging image maker.

In past times, my rouge, loose-cannon tendencies have landed me in trouble, undermining my progress in a competitive field where honesty through work is not always rewarded in the same manner as celebrity. Without naming names, as i have learned my lessons of self-preservation well, I have been appalled by what goes on behind the scenes in our otherwise wonderful medium.

Whether founded or unfounded, recent and not-so-recent exposées and rumors of image manipulation, truth fictionalization and other acts through which masterful photographers tarnish brilliant careers have brought me and other non-veterans to virtually pull out our hairs in frustration and disbelief. Images that have been revered for decades have turned out to be not everything they were supposed to be. Many of us are too aware of outrageous cases that remain, humour me, underexposed.

So what should the focus of an industry-wide conversation be? I am certain that these practices will not stop as long as ambition and self-celebratory priorities exist. In short, never. In our industry, there are more than enough past, present and future writings about ethics, scandal, punishment and redemption. Bottom lines in the business will always allow for new cases to come to light and that old pendulum will remind us of its motion yet again.

I personally feel that there will always be honest and dishonest individuals in this and all fronts of life. I don't think a sensational scandal is any worse than a small-town publication denying the usage of digital trickery that they themselves forbid or than a student using an old photo to fulfill a recent assignment.

I am not sure ethics consortiums, conferences, regulation, exposées, editorial apologies for cheating or banning photographers are what we ought to be talking about. Instead, in light of what most of us are powerless to influence, I put forth the lustful wish that each of us takes a moment to reflect upon what internal forces drive us to covet and pursue. Those internal or external forces, big and small, are the ingredients that, when unchecked, ultimately produce provocative, eloquent and beautiful photography that is presented in a less than honest manner.

Pride, regret, envy, resentment, fear... 

Let us photographers, editors and audiences celebrate in private whether we march to our own drumbeat! Let us infuse a good dose of selfless hope into our work. Never mind what others are doing. Let us just be honest to ourselves first and let us then cherish any visual manifestation of that honesty. Ultimately, I am sure, the sweetness or bitterness of our own modus operandi is for each of us to swallow alone.

May your belly be full of sweet satisfaction!

Eduardo Rubiano