I’m a photojournalist and documentary photographer. I’m also an educator at a School of Journalism. While generative artificial intelligence is capable of positive impacts in a broad range of scientific and creative fields, synthetic visual images made without the physical presence of an eyewitness human reporter using a camera—in particular those made by image generators like DALL-E, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion—seriously undermine the evidentiary role that camera-led reporting by direct human witness- has played historically in the field of journalism and public interest documentary.
Camera-led reporting and witness are vital to human understanding because when practiced without misleading staging or alteration they are capable of showing us something that AI images (which may look like but are not “photographs,” or “moving-image actuality”) can never show: direct visual evidence made in the specific place and time of unfolding events that engage the credibility of oral testimonies of those living through those events by showing rather than telling.
Still and moving images purporting to be photographic or camera-led eyewitness proof of actual unfolding news events or of non-fiction documentary issues-—whether deployed in newspapers, on TV stations, or on social media—must remain contextualized and easily distinguishable from images which are fabricated by AI. I wholeheartedly support the Statement of Principles by the photojournalism working group on AI, and will adhere to its tenets in my own human-centered non-fiction and journalistic reporting practice and in my teaching.
Portadown, Northern Ireland July 12, 1986
In Portadown, Loyalist riots and clashes with police broke out repeatedly between July 6-14, 1986.
A Loyalist crowd angered over the redirection of Twelfth parade routes, in the context of simmering tensions over the Anglo-Irish Agreement, overturned and set fire to an armored land rover. A woman, limping and clutching a suitcase, walked through the smoke along an otherwise empty street.
Loyalists, long confident that the Royal Ulster Constabulary were “on their side,” felt betrayed. That police would enforce the re-routing of traditional annual parades of the Orange Order and Apprentice Boys “Twelfths,” to avoid inflaming the sentiments of Irish Nationlists in Obin Street, where riots had occurred the two preceding years, shocked them.
At the same time the new route failed to appease the Irish Nationalist communities. The re-routed parades still passed through their neighborhoods along the Garvaghy Road.
Photojournalist and Documentary photographer
School of Journalism
University of Texas at Austin