False photos as a Statement about Photojournalism

John Vink over on this post on Lightstalkers brought up a very interesting case: two students, Guillaume Chauvin (23) and Rémi Hubert (22), upon winning a Paris Match photojournalism prize, announce that they have faked the pictures in their entry as an exercise and indictment of photojournalism. Here are the original images from Paris Match, from a story about “homeless students”, and this is (through rough google translation) the article from Liberation describing what happened.

One of the setup photographs. (Very rough translation: I can not go to the University Restaurant every day and I do not go to the Restos du Coeur. So I go to the markets and I give to friends who can go cook. " Armin, 23, Master of Sociology.)

They revealed the deception during the award ceremony, reading a text in which they describe their “artistic” action as an “attempt to challenge” the “workings of a media discourse that has the ingredients for convenience and voyeurism in the representation of distress.” “It was said that it would be a good opportunity to reveal the mechanisms of some news does not check his sources and information and relies on sensationalism,” says Rémi Hubert.

What do you think? A valid (respectable? responsible?) form of criticism?

As for me: I think that this is a very provocative (and perhaps intelligent) approach to breaching this important subject, but I need to know more about their motivations… as I’m not convinced this is ultimately a responsible approach. I don’t think (or, I don’t want to think) that journalism is doing such wholesale falsification of stories, as these two students have done, and thus their actions go far beyond the more subtle point they’re trying to make. Bob Black has the first nice response on that lightstalkers thread; I think I am agreeing with him.

Also, I want to ask the students, what would you have done had you not won this award and gotten that stage to make your written statement? What would the message have been then?

Be sure too to read some of the comments left on the Liberation article for a taste of how the French public is reacting to this revelation and statement. Some are very interesting.

(Last, sorry for the crude translations, I hope they are reasonably accurate as I had to revise some of the grammar for it to make any sense. If you’d like to contribute a non-google translation I would be happy to amend ours)

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