Photojournalism Behind the Scenes: Staged Conflict Photography

Italian photographer Ruben Salvadori recently put together a documentary recording the behind-the-scenes of conflict photography. Although not all conflict journalism is like this, it is still a very eye-opening documentary about the pressures that many conflict photographers face, and the influence they have on the people they photograph.

Your thoughts? Share them below and please keep the conversation civil.

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  • Kaushal

    No disrespect to the amazing photojournalists out there who often put their lives at risk to inform us about what goes on in the world, but this video reaffirms my belief that street photography is the toughest genre:) It is not easy creating drama in a simple everyday situation and by being as discreet as possible so as not to influence the scene you are documenting. Oh and that is also why I think it is the most honest and unadultrated form of photography.

    • Chuck

      @Kaushal: totally agree! Expanding on the above footage, I think street photographers should be as invisible as KCB always did. Any kind of in-the-face photographing can create a sort of drama, but it will lose its authenticity of the truthful moment.

      • Iamsimonjohnson

        When I am shooting on the street I NEVER ask for permission from my subjects, for me it goes against everything I am trying to achieve. I beleave the moment I ask for permission the ‘Street Photo’ becomes nothing more than a ‘portrait’ maybe even a good portrait but nothing more. Conflict or War photography is no different, I think this video discloses that point very well.


  • Anne Schmidt

    Thank you for showing this quite off topic video here Eric. Go trust the press after that… We should make it viral.

  • Jorge Zubillaga

    you are heros !

  • Thomas Leuthard

    I’m not sure, if this is off topic. It shows that you cannot trust a photograph, no matter where and how it was taken. Also on the streets there are fabricated shots. I would even say that an asked street photo is fabricated and not real…

    • Anne Schmidt

      Is it that we cannot trust a photograph or photographers, as long as photography is their way of living? I have troubles understanding -and there I mean accepting- that these press photographers do what they’re told to do so that their pictures sell. They are supposed to be privileged witnesses of the reality of things happening in the world. They are supposed to inform us.
      So what about Magnum photographers and the other famous press photographers? Do they use the same tricks? Do they stage their photos?

    • Anne Schmidt

      Oh, I forgot, what do you mean when you write “an asked street photo”? :)

  • Brad

    People should not expect photographs to be “the truth.”

  • Liam

    I’m undecided about my thoughts on this. Sure, they need to be reporting the news in it’s truth and full disclosure. But on the other hand, we are in a media/entertainment industry. And, regretfully, the demand is for “the money” shot.

    The question comes down to “what is the role of the photo in the story?” is the photo the story or is it merely an illustration of a bigger story in the print?

    To a degree, isn’t every shot somewhat staged? We look for light, angles, lines, tension, drama, emotion, composition etc. etc.. So I don’t think this issue is a black/white issue. But like he said, the aim is to make us aware and I for one am glad I have seen this vid – I am going to be more thoughtful in my reviewing of photos in the news.

  • Kyle Batson

    An intriguing video. I’m glad this photographer undertook this project. I how much the economics of photojournalism plays into this. As I understand it, most of photojournalists are freelancers. They aren’t paid unless they get a photo published, so they’re going to do what they can to make sure they get something ‘dramatic’ even if the situation wasn’t as dramatic as it appears. If more photojournalists were salaried, might that not encourage them to take more time and immerse themselves into the culture a bit more, making the effort to find a unique story?

    I have no idea if this is the case, though. Someone please correct me or clarify if you have more detailed knowledge of the workings of this industry.

  • Anonymous

    It’s obvious that the presence of the press, the photographers, the police.. etc.. would change the response of protesters, rioters.. etc. Paparazzi can incite actors and musicians to attack or throw things at them.. in this case it is the reverse, the photographers are almost friends and the rioters perform for them to get the publicity they are obviously seeking rather than trying to scare them off not wanting it [publicity]. Staged? Their actions aren’t staged but some of their poses might be. If they didn’t mean business they wouldn’t be out there. It does make you wonder though if what you see on the news or in print is real or exacerbated by witnesses bearing cameras. Kudos to the Italian photographer doing this study.

  • K Brown

    It’s sad that a video like this seems to make everyone who see’s it decide that you “cannot trust a photograph”.
    You can trust a photograph, you can’t trust every photographer. There are those who want to document history, and there are those who want to create a false history. It’s all about money, getting a shot that pays $$$. Some simply don’t want to earn it so they decide to “cheat”. Their careers are short.
    Now, Liam has made a statement that also demonstrates a very serious failing of society when he says (quite incorrectly) that “we are in a media/entertainment industry”. Photojournalism (in this context) is in no way part of the “entertainment industry”, and to believe it is shows a complete failure to understand what a photojournalist does.
    To believe as many here say ie “Thomas Leuthard: It shows that you cannot trust a photograph, no matter where and how it was taken” is a sad, misinformed statement. I will happily list many many photojournalists for you to explain how you cannot trust their photographs.

    The video shows what sadly does happen, but you cannot base your opinion of an entire field of photographers on a video. I have actually met a few honest police, believe it or not.

    • Eric Kim

      Of course. I believe the video demonstrates a small percentage of what goes on– but still does go on :/

      • K Brown

        Sadly it does still happen. Ethics are subjective to some photographers, money is not.

      • K Brown

        Good video you found BTW Erik, and full props to Ruben Salvadori.

  • K Brown

    To see “true” war Photography, from probably the best photographer working, I recommend watching this TED presentation.

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  • K Brown

    Given that the video shows “Conflict Photographers” “working” in Israel, you can hardly take their actions as representative of the genre of war photography.
    The fact that they rely heavily on propaganda in their various battles (not getting into any politics here), it can hardly be a surprise that staged events like this take place to illustrate their side of events.
    This type of staging does happen when (in this case the Government) wants to effect public opinion in their favour.
    It does not represent true war photographers who actually possess among the highest sense of “truth” in their work. They are simply documenting for history the events that take place in the world, without who’s work, many would not know anything of what is happening.
    To those who think that the video somehow illustrates why you can’t trust a photograph, I would respectfully recommend that you study the work of the true great war photographers past and present like Robert Capa, James Nachtwey, Tim Hetherington, Chris Hondros and Ashley Gilbertson to name just a few.
    You may be amazed.

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