Italian photographer challenges students to reject unethical photography

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Photojournalist Ruben Salvadori discusses his behind-the-scenes photography of protests. Salvadori warned students of the ways in which photographers can distort the truth without distorting a photo.(Madeline Pado/DD)

Pictures aren’t always what they seem. The image captured in a still is only part of the big picture.

The mysteries of photography and how pictures can misrepresent a situation was the focus of photojournalist Ruben Salvadori’s talk with ASU students at the Cronkite School Monday night.

While shooting in Israel at Israeli-Palestinian riots, Salvadori turned his camera on his fellow photographers and began taking pictures behind the scenes.

“Every photo is an interpretation to some level,” Salvadori said.

Salvadori showed about 15 students a video of the riots and then showed a few of his pictures.

The presentation was put on by Sun Devils for Israel and National Press Photographers Association, and sponsored by CAMERA: Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

His pictures attempted to show the relationship between photographer and subject as it truly was, and not as other photos suggest.

Photographers sometimes provoke their subjects to do something worthy of photographing, Salvadori said. Many times when people see someone taking their picture, they purposely do something to seem newsworthy, he said.

“There’s more going on than just what’s in the picture,” Salvadori said.

“Where do you draw the line?” journalism sophomore Matthew Isiah Kurz asked. “After seeing this presentation it makes me wonder how real it is.”

Hayley Magerman, a business major, said she appreciated hearing what happened behind the scenes. As a photographer, Magerman said she has a little background on how pictures can be distorted, but this presentation emphasized it.

“It’s up to the editors and photographers,” Salvadori said about running a controversial photo. Students at the Cronkite School are taught to not fabricate a photo, but this presentation showed that real pictures can present inaccurate situations.

While what is happening in the picture is probably true, he explained people should realize a photographer being present suggests the situation might not be as bad.

A code of ethics is often not followed in these situations, and Salvadori’s is to make people aware so unethical practices can stop.

Salvadori began shooting the riots in Israel because he said it sounded interesting. That is when he began to notice questionable photographs.

“I went there with no knowledge of what was going on there,” Salvadori said.

After many riots and photos, he began shooting for a publication that used his photos to illustrate a behind-the-scenes perspective of the riots.

Everyone has a different ethical background, and although some editors and photographers may choose to run a photo knowing that it is misinterpreted, Salvadori said he is trying to expose these photos to the world.

Samantha Rush, a member of Sun Devils for Israel, said the event was a good opportunity to educate more students about their cause.

“We thought it would be great to pair with the journalism department to broaden our audience,” Rush said. “We admire his work and wanted to expose that.”

Salvadori is currently traveling around the United States and Canada giving presentations to raise awareness of the fabrication of photos. Many other young photojournalists are working with Salvadori in his efforts.

Salvadori was born and raised in Venice, Italy and attended the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. He continues to photograph riots in Israel.

Contact the reporter at kletterl@asu.edu