By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Acknowledging a first-rate photojournalist

On Jan. 13 I posted an item on citizen journalists who were on the ground in Haiti following the devastating earthquake there. I put up some links. And I included a harrowing photo of a woman being rescued. I don’t remember where I found the picture, but it was surely from one of several sites I looked at that were uploading work from citizen journalists. I do know that I was ultimately led to the public TwitPic account of the photographer, Daniel Morel.

Yesterday I heard from Morel’s lawyer, Barbara Hoffman, who’s based in New York. It turns out that Morel is a professional photojournalist. She asked that I remove Morel’s photograph and explain what happened. “Mr. Morel’s iconic images were used world wide without his authorization knowingly by news media,” she wrote to me in an e-mail. “He was  never a citizen journalist, and used twitter, given the tragic circumstances to  offer the work for license.”

I’m happy to set the record straight. According to an interview in the New York Times’ online Lens section, Morel is a veteran photojournalist who was born in Haiti in 1951. A longtime photographer for the Associated Press, he is currently a contributor to Corbis Images. Morel told the Times:

I don’t take pictures like other photographers. I don’t take pictures as art. Maybe I put like 15 percent of art in my picture and the rest is history, is documentary. Because if you put too much art, you play with history. You cannot deform history. You have to show it the way it is. You have to show it the way it is.

Morel is a fine photographer and journalist. I recommend the interview and the accompanying slideshow. And here is a story — with a photo of Morel — about an exhibition called “Haiti Eyes” that he presented in New York in 2005.

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  1. BP Myers

    Seems to me you couldn’t be more scrupulous about these things, Dan. I hope they’re aware of that.

    And because they got the lawyers involved, despite your recommendation, I will not be clicking on Mr. Morel’s slideshow.

    Guess I’m just spiteful that way.

  2. L.K. Collins

    Your apology should be a model for those finding themselves in similar situations.

    Your explanation, however, showed a disregard of the rights of others when you hid (and are possibly still hiding) behind the “citizen journalist” phraseology.

    Citizen journalists have the right to citation of their efforts just as do professionals. The onus is on the user to make the citation.

    Your explanation might also suggest the assumption that, since you participate in the Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- Share Alike 3.0 United States License program, others automatically so do.

    Was that part of the problem?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @L.K.: Although I can’t reconstruct what led me to Morel’s photo, I can definitely say that my own use of Creative Commons has nothing to do with my assuming that others do as well. I know I believed at the time that it was a pure example of citizen journalism. And when I posted Morel’s photo, I credited him and linked to his TwitPic page. Although I take full responsibility, Morel’s decision to post his work to Twitter via TwitPic led to some confusion, which his lawyer references in her e-mail to me.

  3. L.K. Collins

    I sense, Dan, that the ubiquitous nature of the the internet permits a presumption that, if it is on the internet, it is fair game.

    With you focusing your professorial and research attention new media and your professional and personal understanding of the rights of authors, the error seems a little more than a just a casual oversight. (I certainly don’t imply a nefarious intent.)

    Does the fact that the internet is loose and informal breed a disinterest — or ignorance — or contempt — for the legitimate rights of the original source?

    I would think this issue would be an important part of your new media thinking and discussion.

    Having a dialog on this subject here on your blog would be most informative.

    Again, your response to the challenge was a model for all.

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