Image Truth/Story Truth Conference at Columbia University October 16


Digital photography has changed the nature of photojournalism inspiring new creative practices that challenge conventional standards of storytelling and image truth.
At the same time, the ease with which images can be digitally altered and shared across social media platforms, often stripped of context and attribution, has led to a crisis of credibility and confusion over standards.

Add to the equation, an energized, seeing public, not to mention corporate and political actors, unrestrained by ethical conventions, now flooding global image streams with millions of news like images, unverified, but in effective competition with professional photojournalists and documentarians for attention in the media space.

Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, the Tow Center and photographers Nina Berman and Gary Knight hosted a one day conference Image Truth/Story Truth October 16, bringing together industry professionals, academics, cultural theorists and historians to discuss the changing nature of photojournalism and documentary photography in the digital age.

What role does the professional photojournalist play in this new media landscape? What are the ethical standards of commissioning, producing and disseminating photojournalistic images across global platforms? In the age of social media and democratization of production how should subjects play a role in framing and directing their own stories?

To see more on the conference go here:

To see some responses, check out Brian Palmer

The full schedule:

Welcome and Intro: Nina Berman

Contests and Ethics: World Press Photo Award:
Lars Boering, David Campbell

Media awards highlight important photography and offer an opportunity to scrutinize the production, intent and legitimacy of both story and image. The arrival of digital photography has changed aesthetic practices raising important questions about standards, conventions and ethics. World Press Photo will lead the discussion and present research governing its 2016 contest.

World Press Photo response:
Moderator: John Edwin Mason. Panelists: Gary Knight and Sean Elliot

Panelists will offer responses to World Press Photo and discuss broader
questions of context and ethics of photojournalism production and post production.

Politics of the Image and the Constructed Event:
Moderator: Marvin Heiferman, Panelists: Kiku Adatto, Suzie Linfield and Michael Shaw

News images claim to be representations of some kind of truth, but what truth and for whom? How do we consider an image as “news” in an age of photo ops, embeds and staged events? This panel explores the politics of recently published editorial images, the narratives they support or undermine, and the intersection between ‘truth’ and fairness with commerce and ideology.

The Press and Photography.
Moderator: Claire Wardle. Panelists: Santiago Lyon, Aidan Sullivan, Michele McNally, Kenny Irby

The 24 hour news cycle, social media, user generated content and new technologies are changing how and what media companies report and publish. This panel looks at how large media organizations leverage their freelance and staff resources, verify images, maintain credibility and ensure fairness in representation while operating in a commercially competitive environment.

What is a photograph? The future of photography and the professional image maker. Moderator: Anne Wilkes Tucker, Fred Ritchin, Stephen Mayes, Jeff Howe and Shree K. Nayer

Throughout photography’s history, image makers have pushed the line of authenticity, by working as witness, creator and director. Yet within both the lens and film, and now digital sensors and algorithms, there are inherent biases. And so, given the fast paced technological changes altering both the production and consumption of images, what is in store for the future? How do journalists and documentarians prepare ethical, moral and intellectual foundations with which to meet the challenges?

Summary: Michael Sandel

Kiku Adatto has taught about art, culture, and civic life at Harvard University for many years and is Scholar in Residence at the Mahindra Humanities Center. She is the author of Picture Perfect: Life in the Age of the Photo Op.

Nina Berman is a documentary photographer and author of Purple Hearts, Back from Iraq and Homeland. Her photographs and videos have been exhibited at more than 100 venues including the Whitney Museum of American Art 2010 Biennial. She is a member of the NOOR photo collective and is an associate professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Lars Boering is Managing director of World Press Photo Foundation and has been involved in photography for over 25 years. He is founder of the Noorderlicht masterclass Groningen, teacher and advisor in visual communication and has curated 23 exhibitions.

David Campbell is a writer, professor and producer. His analyses of photojournalism and the new media economy are available at He is currently working as a research consultant to the World Press Photo Foundation, and is Secretary to the World Press Photo Contest jury.

Sean Elliot is Chief Photographer at The Day in southeastern Connecticut where he has worked since 1993. He is a graduate of the Boston University College of Communications. Sean has served the NPPA in some capacity since 1999 including a two terms as President of the association and a decade on the Ethics Committee which he now chairs. Sean was a member of that committee when the NPPA’s code of ethics was re-drafted in 2004.

Marvin Heiferman is a curator and writer who organizes projects about photography and visual culture for institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian Institution, International Center of Photography, Whitney Museum of American Art, New Museum and the Carnegie Museum of Art. A contributing editor to Art in America, Heiferman has written for numerous publications including The New York Times, CNN,Artforum, Design Observer, Gagosian Quarterly, and Aperture. His most recent book is Photography Changes Everything (Aperture, 2012), and new entries to his online project WHY WE LOOK are posted daily.

Jeff Howe is an assistant professor and the program coordinator for Media Innovation at
Northeastern University . He is a contributing editor for Wired and the author of
Crowdsourcing: How the Power of the Crowd is Driving the Future of Business.
He was a 2009-2010 Nieman Fellow at Harvard and is currently a visiting scholar at the MIT Media Lab

Kenny Irby is the founder of Poynter’s photojournalism program and a senior faculty member who lectures in the areas of digital photographic reporting, visual journalism leadership, ethical decision making and diversity integration. He has served as a juror on numerous contests including the Pulitzer Prize for photographic reporting. He was formerly deputy director of photography at Newsday.

Gary Knight is an English photographer and educator. He is the founder of the VII Photo Agency, founder and Director of the Program for Narrative & Documentary Practice at the Institute for Global Leadership at Tufts University, co-founder of The GroundTruth Project and a Canon Ambassador.

Susie Linfield is the author of The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award . She writes about culture and politics for a wide variety of publications, including “The Nation,” the “New York Times,” “Dissent,” “Aperture,” and the “Boston Review.” Linfield is an associate professor at New York University, where she teaches cultural journalism.

Santiago Lyon is the VP for Photography at the Associated Press, responsible for the AP’s global photo report and the hundreds of photographers and editors who produce it. He has 30 years of experience as a photographer and photo editor and received multiple awards for his photography from a conflict zones around the world prior to taking on his current role in 2003. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 2003/2004 and a Sulzberger Fellow at Columbia University in 2012.

John Edwin Mason teaches African history and the history of photography at the University of Virginia. He has written extensively about photography in South Africa and is currently working on a book about the American photographer Gordon Parks.

Stephen Mayes is Executive Director of the Tim Hetherington Trust with 30 years experience managing the work and careers of photographers in diverse areas of fashion, art, commerce and journalism, most recently as CEO of VII.

Michele McNally is the director of photography and an assistant managing editor of The New York Times. She has served as juror and chair of many photography contests including Pictures of the Year, World Press Photo, Overseas Press Club and the Pulitzer Prize. Prior to joining the Times in 2004 , she was the picture editor of Fortune magazine.

Shree K. Nayar is the T. C. Chang Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University. He heads the Columbia Vision Laboratory (CAVE), which develops advanced computer vision systems. His research is focused on three areas – the creation of novel cameras that provide new forms of visual information, the design of physics based models for vision and graphics, and the development of algorithms for understanding scenes from images.

Fred Ritchin is Dean of the School and Scholar in Residence at the International Center of Photography, former professor of Photography and Imaging at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, co-director of the NYU/Magnum Foundation Photography and Human Rights Program, and author of In Our Own Image, After Photography, and Bending the Frame.

Michael Sandel teaches political philosophy at Harvard University. He is the author, most recently, of What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets, and Justice:What’s the Right Thing to Do?

Michael Shaw is the publisher of, the only site dedicated to the daily analysis of news photos and media images. A clinical psychologist, he writes and lectures widely on visual politics and media and visual literacy.

Aidan Sullivan
is the Vice-President of Getty images where he oversees senior photo editors and heads Getty Reportage, the company’s premier photojournalism and documentary division. He was formerly a photo editor at the Sunday Times and the Sunday Times Magazine in London. He is the founder of the Ian Parry Scholarship .

Anne Wilkes Tucker Recently retired as the founding photographic curator at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Anne Wilkes Tucker has organized more than forty exhibitions; authored, edited or contributed essays to over 100 books and catalogues, and built the MFAH photography department into one of the world’s leading collections.

Claire Wardle is the Research Director at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School. Her research examines journalism, social media and verification. She is also the co-founder of Eyewitness Media Hub, a group undertaking research and building resources to support the safe and ethical use of eyewitness media.