Ethics

Photojournalist confronts ethical dilemma

 

adial@miamiherald.com

When to take a photograph? The ethics and privacy of photographing a person in grief or tragedy — and when to step in to help or to comfort a person — has been the subject of discussion for years in my profession of photojournalism.

As a photojournalist at the Miami Herald for the past 30 years, these issues always have been forefront in my mind. From disasters, turmoil and confrontation to tragedy, defeat and death, the emotions seen on the faces of my subjects can be extreme. When to press the button and when not to press the button isn’t always clear.

Last week, a traumatic life and death event unfolded before my eyes. In front of me, stopped in traffic on Miami’s State Road 836, also known as the Dolphin Expressway, a woman stepped out of an SUV. She was screaming as she carried a 5-month-old baby who was not breathing and turning blue.

Instantly, I jumped out of my car to offer the woman help as traffic passed us by. Inexperienced to properly perform CPR, I did the best thing that came to mind: I flagged down other motorists. Help arrived and, through the life-saving techniques of CPR, the baby started breathing.

With four police officers and a good Samaritan on the scene, I stepped back and paused. My heart did not want to inflict more stress on this traumatized woman. I did not want her seeing me taking pictures, but I know that history demonstrates that compelling images can produce unforeseen and often beneficial results.

A still photograph can change the course of history, affect policy, raise awareness and cause leaders to act. And, in this case, maybe it can inspire others to become trained in CPR techniques — and to swiftly offer their assistance to those in dire need.

So, I grabbed my camera from my car and began recording what I saw. Little Sebastian de la Cruz stopped breathing for a second time, and his aunt Pamela Rauseo again performed CPR. I captured the Breath of Life in a still photograph.

The image has been seen around the world. In response, broadcasters and others discussed the need for people to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) — and how it can save a life.

My photograph has raised that awareness.

Years of experience prepared me for that day: Respond as a human being first, a photojournalist second.

An earlier version of this story misidentified the name of State Road 836. It is the Dolphin Expressway.

Read more Issues & Ideas stories from the Miami Herald

  • Holder

    Letter to Ferguson — and the nation

    Since the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, the nation and the world have witnessed the unrest that has gripped Ferguson, Mo. At the core of these demonstrations is a demand for answers about the circumstances of this young man’s death and a broader concern about the state of our criminal justice system.

  • Age divide

    Ferguson highlights generational gap

    As the protests intensified in Ferguson last week, young protesters showed a “brazen defiance” that many older protesters couldn’t understand.

  • Fulton

    Letter to Brown family: Hold on to your faith

    I wish I had a word of automatic comfort but I don’t. I wish I could say that it will be alright on a certain or specific day but I can’t. I wish that all of the pain that I have endured could possibly ease some of yours but it won’t. What I can do for you is what has been done for me: pray for you then share my continuing journey as you begin yours.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category