Essay – A photojournalist has to get the picture. Does the end justify the means?

A photojournalist has to get the picture. Does the end justify the means?

When answering this question were are essentially asking ourselves weather taking photographs, most likely photographs of some kind of atrocity, some thing that questions are moral values, is justifiable by the future implications of those photographs, weather that may be for a charity, an anti war campaign, art, news, or magazine articles. This could also be interpreted with the end considered as the advancement of a photographer’s career, or the idea of reaching a more personal goal.

In essence we’re asking ourselves weather there is a justifiable reason for taking those images.

“A true or reasonable moral principle can explain why we ought to do such and such in a practical situation. Unless we have recourse to a unique principle, or at least a consistent set of principles, we have no explanation at all.” [1]

There are 5 major ethical standpoints to be considered when answering this question, Virtue, which emphasises the role of one’s character and the virtues individuals embody when determining or evaluating ethical behaviour, within this belief one would consider not what we ought to do, but what kind of person we ought to be.

Deontological, judging the morality of an action based on the actions adherence to a rule or rules, considering duty and obligation. In this terminology action is considered more important than consequence.

The ethics of rights, the belief that each moral subject has certain rights that no one is entitled to violate, this would consider principles of freedom or entitlement.

Egoism, the theory that we should always act to maximise our own personal benefit, and finally utilitarianism, the theory we should always act to maximise the universal benefit, both of which are forms of consequentialism, the theory that the consequences of one’s actions are the ultimate basis for any ethical judgment.

Each of these theories has their own set of rules, relative to their standpoint as to weather an action that leads to an ethical query, in this case a photojournalist taking photographs of some kind of atrocity, would be a justifiable action.

As an example to be used when answering this question, lets consider the iconic image of a Vulture Stalking a Child, this image was taken by Kevin Carter in 1993. The image consists of a malnourished African child keeled over towards the floor as a vulture lures threateningly in the background.

It is said Carter waited roughly 20 minuets to see if the vulture would spread its wings for the perfect shot, before snapping the image and chasing the vulture away. The image was published in The New York Times and over night hundreds of people had made contact with the publication to ask weather the child had survived. The News Paper consequentially released a special editors note stating the child had enough strength to walk away, but her ultimate fate was unknown.

At the time, in Sudan where this image was taken, journalists were asked not to touch famine victims at the risk of spreading disease, however Carter came under criticism for taking the photograph, in some cases even being compared to the vulture. Carter went on to receive the Pulitzer Prize for his photograph although the moral issues it raised had consumed him, causing him to commit suicide three months later.

When considering the ethical standpoint of virtue, applied to the ethical debate of this photograph, it’s arguable that the ends did not justify the means for Carter, as his actions lead him to hate him self. In hindsight what he did inflicted on the kind of person he was, or believed him self to be. Not being able to live with the fact he chose to photograph the child instead of help it, created a guilt caused by his actions, challenging his moral values, therefore from a virtue standpoint, the ends were not justified by the means, as Carter considered what he ought do, instead of what kind of person he ought to be. The regret of this decision later caused him to commit suicide, suggesting if Carter was to have considered virtue when making his decision, there may have been a different out come.

When applying a deontological viewpoint to this image, we have to consider weather Carter was acting under his duty as a photojournalist, or as an individual. If you were to consider his duties as a photographer, to capture an image that epitomizes the tragedies occurring in Sudan, then the end was justified by the means, as Cater acted out his duty or obligations as a photographer, with more importance based on the action than its consequence. Objectively to this, if you were to consider his duty as an individual, to act in a way that adheres to his moral values, then Carter should have helped the child, as this action would have been more important than the photograph itself and consequentially Carter wouldn’t have committed suicide.

When considering ethical rights in relation to this image, it is debatable that in the same way the child has a basic right to food, clean water, and a right to life, Carter has an equal right to take the photograph, putting aside believes in regards to any moral obligations to help the child, one could suggest that the rest of the world has a right to see the tragedy plaid out by these famines, a right to knowledge and understanding, with Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Stating “ Everyone has the right to freely participate in the culture of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in the scientific advancement and its benefits.”[2]

Carter was acting within his right to participate in the culture of a community, be that to enhance empathy for these tragedies on a global scale, by creating awareness, he is contributing to a sense of global community, therefore the ends would justify the means.

Although it’s obvious the child was in no state to portray their view, and was also to young to do so. One could debate the child had a right to choose weather or not they wished to be represented in such a fragile state, weather they wanted to be viewed by the rest of the world as helpless, on the contrary to this, Susan Sontag sates in her book ‘Regarding the Pain of Others’, “Victims are interested in the representations of their own sufferings and want their plight to be recorded in photographs.” [3]

When relating the theory of egoism to this photograph, one could state that taking this image lead Carter to win the Pulitzer Prize, in terms of personal gains and enhancing his career as a photographer, the end was justified by the means. However on the contrary to this, in the long term, taking the photograph lead Carter to suicide, contradicting the original statement as in the long run Carter would have been better of if he had helped the child, as apposed to taking the photograph.

When the ethical stand point of utilitarianism is applied to the photograph, the view that the greater good was reached through the publication of this image, a utilitarian may state that buy taking that photograph, it is helping the greater good, as it may build awareness for those that may of otherwise not known of the monstrosities accruing in Sudan at the time. Therefore the end was justified by the means. Although taking the photograph may have seemed immoral, the use of the image i.e the end point, has helped the greater good buy building awareness, and possibly causing more people to donate to a much needed cause, which in turn could mean less children go without food, achieving the greatest happiness for the greatest number.

“Since it’s invention we have relied on photography to function as a privileged verification of events we might otherwise never know. In the twentieth century, photography was called upon to verify what we could not even imagine and hence not believe.” [4]

You could consider the consequence of taking the photograph was that it helped to build much needed awareness of the tragedies accruing in 3rd world countries, however, an objective viewpoint would be that the true consequence of this photograph was Carters suicide, that for him the end was not justified by the means.

One could disagree with this by suggesting that the loss of one life, i.e Carters, was justifiable when considering the immortal power the photograph holds. Its ability to constantly remind us of those less fortunate, not only causes us to recognise this, but for some, challenges us to act. In this case, the consequence of this photograph is not only positive, but on going, and therefore the end is justified by the means.

When applying Immanuel Kant’s, Categorical imperative, stating what ought to be done should be based on pure reason alone and not contingent upon sensible desires. We would conclude that Carter should have never taken the photograph. Carter was guided buy his desire to be a great photographer as apposed to acting out of reason, leading to the moral dilemma that later caused his suicide.

However the fact of the matter seems to be, images like this increase the knowledge of the tragedies happening world wide, in places where ignorance is often bliss, they spark emotions that cause us to consider issues that we may not have been oblivious to, but often over look, as without images that shock and challenge us they are merely ideas, something spoken about, imagined, although never witnessed.

Considering this a utilitarian standpoint seems to be the most relative when asking if a photojournalist has to get the picture. Does the end justify the means? Although it will always come down to an individuals moral values and what they are comfortable with photographing, what they consider right and wrong, and weather or not they are content with the decisions they are making, it appears if the greater good is effected positively by the out come of a photograph, then the end seems truly justified by the means.

Although this debate is one that has been had way before the camera was invented and will continue far into the future, utilitarianism forces us to think with logic and disregard decisions lead by emotion, when working towards the goal of a greater good, it seems even a decision that seems terrible, such as photographic a starving child instead of helping it, can later be justified.

The greater good may or may not have been considered by carter when taking this photograph, although it has undoubtedly been effected buy it, unlike Carter or the child, the photograph will never die, but will be used as a constant reminder to us all of those less fortunate, and in a poetic sense considering Carter’s fate, the desperate need for us to help them.

“The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end.” [5]

 

References

[1] Torbjorn Tannsjo – Understanding Ethics – 2010 – Edinburgh University Press – 2nd edition – Unknown

[2] United Nations – (2009) – (Universal Declaration Of Human Rights) – Article 27

[3] Susan Sontag – Regarding the Pain of Others – 2003 – Farrar, Stratus and Giroux – Unknown – Unknown

[4] Griselda Pollock – Dying Seeing Feeling: Transforming the Ethical Space of Feminist Aesthetics

[5] Leon Trosky – Their Morals and Ours – 1973 – USA – Pathfinder Press – Fifth Edition – Unknown

 

 

 

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Media Law Essay

How should the Law respond to the growth of Social Media? Reflect in terms of either Defamation or Privacy.

Since the rise of social media the debate of liability for defamation has arisen time and time again on news feeds and tabloid headlines, from twitter to facebook, the battle between freedom of speech and defamation continues. New Acts have been drawn up under UK Social Media Law and users are urged to know the lines and what counts as crossing them. However laws of the past that have been used as templates for the laws of the present, written in a time when only large institutions and established publications had access to the global stage, are an undoubtedly ridiculous guide lines to have used to structure the laws that regulate virtual world.

Follow me if you will, a writer, lets say for the Times is professional person, it is their responsibility to know of the laws by which their profession is governed, in the same way you would expect a police officer to know the laws they are policing, or a taxi driver to know traffic laws. This is the same for an editor, a C.E.O or a board of directors, although by this point they are likely to have lawyers that advice them, the point remains. It is their professional responsibility to abide by these laws and work within them.

Therefore if a publication, writer or editor is sued for defamation, then it is their own fault for breaching or not knowing the laws that govern their profession.

Now lets take for example a 19-year-old girl that’s just left collage, she foolishly posts a facebook status and winds up in court for defamation. How is this in anyway a reasonable response, she is not a professional person, she isn’t working on behalf of an influential institution, she’s simply a young girl that has done something slightly stupid. However Facebook as a company, the same as Twitter and various other social media sights, are run by professionals and are run to turn over a profit, therefore should carry the same levels of responsibility that say the tabloids would. If they are going to profit from providing the platform for people to communicate, socialise and comment on things that could tarnish people’s reputations, then they should be responsible for regulating what is being said.

The law drastically needs to recognise that these institutions have the sole responsibility to act as the gatekeepers for the content that is shared on there sites, and not to force these institutions to take up this responsibility is incomprehensible.

The Pain of Seeing Essay

The historical value of photographs taken of atrocities, is something that is often over looked due to ethical debates raised by their subject matter, although images of this nature hold an unequivocal importance for a variety of reasons. Imagine a history lesson without a photograph of World War 2, imagine being the teacher trying to explain the true devastation and chaos of war to a room full of children without visual aid.

Being told about an atrocity is one thing, but for many of us, we fail to truly comprehend that atrocity until we can visualize it. A photograph allows us to really understand an atrocity, to see an event, its true devastation and in many cases the emotions caused by that devastation.

“Remembering is an ethical act, has an ethical value in and of itself. Memory is, achingly, the only relation we can have with the dead.” [1] We remember an image of war or a starving African child because of the impact that image has on us, the emotions the image invoke, work as a vessel to carry their message.

Photographs will always be used as a tool in the present to teach humanity of the mistakes they made in the past, as well as this they help teach the more fortunate people amongst us, of the issues that continue to devastate the less fortunate, as for many of us, a photograph is as close as we are likely to get.

Photographs are a means of making ‘real’ (or ‘more real’) matters that the privileged and the merely safe might prefer to ignore. [2]

References

[1] Susan Sontag – Regarding the Pain of Others – 2003 – Farrar, Stratus and Giroux – Unknown – Unknown

[2] Susan Sontag – Regarding the Pain of Others – 2003 – Farrar, Stratus and Giroux – Unknown – Unknown

Rear Window Essay

In the movie Rear Window, Jeffries asks the ethical question, “I wonder if it’s ethical to watch a man with binoculars and a long focus lens. Do you suppose it’s ethical even if you prove he didn’t commit a crime?”

In this film New York magazine photographer Jeff is housebound due to a broken leg and out of boredom begins to watch his neighbours through his rear window for entertainment, he finds him self peering in on the lives of various individuals including, a pair of newlyweds, a composer, a middle aged couple, a lonely woman, a dancer, often practicing her routines whilst scantily clad, and a seals man and his invalid wife. When the salesman’s wife goes missing, Jeff witnesses a series of events that lead him to believe the sales man may have killed her.

When considering this question “I wonder if it’s ethical to watch a man with binoculars and a long focus lens. Do you suppose it’s ethical even if you prove he didn’t commit a crime?” We must first consider are moral obligations as people, weather that might be acting as part of a community, helping a person in need, or privately investigating a murder, these moral obligations and our decisions to up hold them, could be considered factors of what make us good or bad people.

Edmund Burke once said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is that good men do nothing”, a quote that for anyone who has seen the film and knows its ending, seems substantially fitting when considering this debate. Weather Jeff proved the sales man’s guilt or his innocence is irrelevant, the fact of the matter was Jeff was doing it for the greater good.

“The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way…. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy; and religion, all in one.” [1]

If Jeff had been consistently watching the scantily clad dancer, with his binoculars and his long focus lens, then another ethical debate may have arose, for this would be considered voyeuristic and indecent. At the same time if Jeff was to have been working, photographing images for a publication that was going on to print these images, accompanied by text that accused the man of murder, then this to would be considered unethical as weather or not the man was guilty had not been proven, in todays world he would be left with grounds to sue for defamation.

Despite this Jeff was acting as an individual, his belief of wrong doing lead him to investigate the matter, in this case his moral obligation was to seek the truth and his actions were for a greater good. What made him continue what was originally a way of merely passing time was an ethical standpoint in it’s self. If you believe you have witnessed or are witnessing wrong doing, is it not your moral duty to act?

References

[1] 1904 John Ruskin – Quoted by Julianne H Newton – The Burden of Visual Truth – 2000 – Unknown – Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc Inc – Unknown

 

 

Copyright Essay

Whilst working on commission for an editorial client you realise that you have taken photographs that would have long term use.  How would you negotiate with your client to retain copyright of the pictures and the option of selling them to another magazine?

 Copyright is essentially the means by which a photographer can protect their photographs against unauthorised copying by permitting or restricting use of their photographs. The laws implemented to define these actions are laid out in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Whilst Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states “ Everyone has the right to freely participate in the culture of the community to enjoy the arts and to share in the scientific advancement and its benefits.”[1] It also goes on to state, “Everyone has the right to protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which they are author.” [2] The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 works as a tool to legally reinforce these human rights if they are breached or in need of protection.

When taking photographs that may have long term use for a client, the photographer may choose to transfer the ownership of copyright, in other words, sell their free hold on those images. This is known as assignment and is normally done through written contract. In this case the photographer should be aware they will have no further control over their work (other than moral rights) and there would be the possibility of loosing any further ability to earn from these images.

In the case of trying to retain copyright for future use, the photographer may choose to license the reproduction of their work. This is a method that is often preferred as it permits use without transferring copyright. A license can be negotiated with a client to use images for an agreed period of time or specific purpose in exchange for payment, this in turn allows the photographer to maintain the copyright of their images for future use, and also re negotiate terms once the license period has expired if the client still wishes to use them.

“An assignment will often appear as part of the contractual terms which are issued to the photographer before a job is done. These terms are to be found on the paperwork received from the client, often in small print on the reverse of the client’s written order form.” [3] With clients often trying to obtain assignment it is extremely curtail for photographers to fully read any contractual paper work and negotiate terms they are not happy with.

References

[1] United Nations – (2009) – (Universal Declaration Of Human Rights) – Article 27

[2] United Nations – (2009) – (Universal Declaration Of Human Rights) – Article 27

[3] Gwen Thomas & Janet Ibbotson – Beyond The Lens – 2003 – London – The Association of Photographers Limited – Unknown – Page 37

 

Reflective Evaluation

I choose to do my photo shoot for my final assignment under the topic of british pub culture, using Vice magazine as the publication the work would be geared towards. I felt their articles have a strong focus on photography, some of which is often slightly obscure and equally as artistic as informative, with photography work standing out as often dominant, as opposed to simply pictures that accompany text.

I took my photographs at various pubs in Leeds city center, choosing less up market locations as I thought these would provide me with better subjects to capture. I wanted to aim the shoot at the characters found in these locations as apposed to the locations themselves. Focusing on facial expressions and the stories that they tell. After selecting my final images I chose to edit them by increasing the clarity of the images, this helped to enhance the characters imperfections, such as skin conditions and wrinkles. I also chose to go with black and white edits for the final series of images, I felt this helps enhance the emotions within the images, as well as maintain the focus on the character instead of their surrounding.

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It became quite clear during this shoot that each picture would portray a different story as each person I photographed had their own individual character. In this image the wide grin signifies emotions of happiness, in turn signifying the that the pub was a place of enjoyment, the dusty t-shirt also holds connotations to the idea of work and manual labour, painting a story of the character as a working man that enjoys a few pints at the end of the day.

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In this image the character seems distant, his eyes being drawn away from the camera, signifying that something may have been happening in the background. His wrinkled skin not only holds connotations to old age, but also the idea of his age seeming enhanced by a possible drinking problem. This is some thing I also found apparent in the following image.

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The characters skin pigment could possibly also signify alcoholism, with dark blotchy patches on his cheeks. This also holds connotations to old age whilst his almost child like expression makes him appear as if he should be much younger than he looks.

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I feel this image holds strong connotations to friendship, with two men enjoying a pint in a quite corner of the pub, again the facial expressions signify an element of enjoyment, I also feels their age relates the idea that these gentlemen could have been friends for along time.

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This is one of my favourite images from this shoot, I feel the expression of confusion on the mans face holds connotations to the confusion of old age, with his tie and smart shirt signifying a time in the past when more formal attire would be more common in his surroundings. Over all I feel my images well portray the vast array of characters that can be found in a pub, whilst at the same time portraying the atmosphere of the place, as some where people can escape to, and enjoy a drink with their friends.

British Pub Culture – 500 Word Article

You can go anywhere in the U.K and its more than likely that your never to far away from a pub, there might not be a shop, a hospital, a school, or a post office, but all probability suggests that if you look hard enough, you’ll find a pub, and unless your wandering through the British country side, miles away from any signs of civilization, bar a rusty tractor in a decrepit barn, the likely hood is you wont have to look that far at all.

With approximately 60,000 estimated pubs in the U.K, with some dating back to the eleventh century it is undeniable that the Pub plays a major role in British culture. Recent news articles have suggested that the number of pub closures has been increasing rapidly with the majority of the blame being aimed towards super markets for selling low priced alcohol as well as tax, and brewery rates, making it increasingly difficult to turn a profit from a pint.

However despite industry economics there is still a strong love between Brits and their locals. Although the reason for this cannot be defined by one universal insight into British culture, we can hazard a guess with a few ideas as to why the British love their pubs.

Maybe it’s the Idea of escaping the daily grind, escaping the job, escaping the family, escaping life and all the things we don’t like about it. Going to a place where they only things that really matter are half decent convocation and the quality of beer. The idea of putting the days work to rest and heading down the local is one that comes increasingly appealing to a lot of us as the clocks hand drags past 4.

It could be the warming familiarities of going somewhere you know, or the excitement of going somewhere you don’t. Maybe its some thing that unifies us bringing not only friends and family together, but young and old, richer and poorer, the ability to bridge these gaps, generation, social, or economic standing is something that all truly great pubs seem to have in common. This may not necessarily be down to the pubs themselves, as much as it might be down to the people drinking in them, as like many great places they are often defined by the people you find there.

If you believe what the tabloids tell you, that pubs are in rapid decline with more and more closing day by day, then it will be a tragic lose for Britain, when the last of the locals boards its windows and bolts its door, as all of this will be lost, relegated to the past tense by a change in tides.

Next time you’re pushing your trolley down the isle of Tesco’s alcohol section, when you find yourself reaching for that bottle of wine to drink with dinner, think of the local. Maybe you’ll find yourself wandering down to the pub after you’ve eaten to see a friend, introducing yourself to a stranger, or talking to the neighbour that you never new you had. Then maybe, just maybe, one more pub will be a little further away from bolting its door.

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Final Assignment Research / Ideas

For this assignment we have been asked to produce a documentary feature that is suitable for an existing editorial publication, this was to consist of 10 final images and either a 1000 word reflection, or a 500 word article that accompanies the images and also a 500 word reflection. I chose to do both the 500 word article and 500 word reflection as I felt it would allow me to write a piece that would accompany my images.

I came up with the idea to base this work around U.K pub culture, more specifically aiming my images at the characters that can be found in these places, I felt this would allow me to get interesting portrait style images of animated individuals, providing I could find the right subjects. During my research for this piece i found various examples of the kind of style I wanted to work with.

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This image was taken during a documentary piece revolving around a fruit and vegetable market, done by photographers Mark Jackson and Huw Davies. I wanted to capture similar characters to this, the idea of an individuals face telling multiple stories, that can only be drawn up by viewers perceptions was something that appealed to me.

I came across work by american photographer Grant Hodgeon’s, entitled the social decline of the public house, this series of images was based around a similar topic to the one I had decided to work towards.

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I liked the way he had chosen to base his images on the characters in these places, instead of the places themselves, as I feel this develops a better representation of the atmosphere of the place through the expressions of the characters. I liked the idea of escapism that was signified to me through these images, the weathered faces of the older men, photographed away from their jobs, away from their families, in a setting that allows people to be a more natural version of them selves, a local, or an anonymous punter in the corner.

As well as this I came across a series of images entitled The Local, taken by British photographer, Piotr Malecki. I liked these images although felt they were aimed more towards telling the story of the place, instead of focusing on the characters in them. The photography is of a more candid style, looking in to the world of the local from the photographers perspective.

London, Great Britain, April 2010: Guests during lunchtime by the pub at the City. Due to ban of smoking more pub goers spend their time on the street near the pub. (Photo by Piotr Malecki) Londyn, Wielka Brytania, Kwiecien 2010: Goscie kolo pubu w londyn Borehamwood, Great Britain, July 2010: Guests at "The Wishing Well" pub. (Photo by Piotr Malecki) Borehamwood, Wielka Brytania, Lipiec 2010: Goscie w pubie "The Wishing Well" Fot: Piotr Malecki

I feel these images give the viewer more of a fly on the wall style perspective, that of an on looker, rather than that of somebody there, someone involved. I felt the work by Grant Hodgeon’s reflected the idea that the photographer could know these subjects, or has been granted a certain insight into their lives, instead of capturing the subject from a distance the photographer is acknowledged. I think this results in an image that speaks in deeper volumes to the viewer.

After gathering a rough idea for the style of images i wanted to create and the subject of my shoot, I decided to gear it towards Vice magazine, I felt this was a good publication to focus the work around as it has a strong focus on photography, some of which is often slightly obscure and equally as artistic as it informative, with photography work standing out as often dominant, as opposed to simply pictures to accompany text. I also felt the idea of an article based around British pub culture is something that would be suited to Vice as their articles are often cultural insights, something I felt this article could be when considering the local pub to be such a large part of British culture.

Here are some examples of Photography I came across in Vice magazine.

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I came across a hole variety of different styles of photography used for vice magazine, these were some examples I found where the subject of the image revolves specifically around people. The images often reflect personality, or the emotion of the subject at the time.

References

http://www.behance.net/gallery/140989/Social-Decline-of-Public-Houses

http://www.vice.com/en_uk/photo

http://www.panos.co.uk/stories/2-13-1163-1669/Piotr-Malecki/The-Local/

http://spitalfieldslife.com/2010/02/23/mark-jackson-huw-davies-photographers/

 

Saturday

For this assignment we were asked to take photographs under the topic of saturday night, we were asked to also consider a publication to aim this task towards, I chose to do mine for the student magazine, focusing the shoot on the notorious Otley run.

I focused my shoot on the key locations visited during the bar crawl, here are my images.

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Reflection 

Over all I am happy with my images, although if I was to do this task again, especially if we were asked to create the whole article, I would have probably have asked permission to photograph these venues inside, in order to capture the atmosphere of each place. I would also consider trying to capture people on an Otley run as I feel this would better illustrate the article, capturing people in fancy dress staggering from bar to bar.