Should Photographers Help or Shoot During an Emergency?

When Al Diaz saw a screaming woman run out from her SUV, he didn’t think twice: he pulled his car over, flashed his hazard lights, and ran toward the frightened woman. Her five-month-old nephew had stopped breathing. Others were calling 911, so Diaz began waving his arms, trying to find someone who knew CPR. Eventually, someone who was qualified showed up and began to help the infant, patting his back gently and performing mouth-to-mouth. Only after he ran to find a police officer, four were steadily on the scene, and the baby began to recover and breathe again, did Diaz, a photojournalist for the Miami Herald, grab his camera and shoot.

Listen to Diaz’s full story here:

“At some point, I start stepping back and let them do their thing, and the baby starts to breathe again. And I’m thinking, well, let me go ahead and grab my camera, you know? There’s plenty of help, there’s four officers.” –Al Diaz

Suddenly, the baby stopped breathing again. Since Diaz already had his camera and there was enough help, he felt comfortable shooting the scene.

After the February 20, 2014 incident, Diaz was presented with the NPPA Humanitarian Award for his choice to intervene during a time of crisis (via PetaPixel). It’s a tricky line to tread as a photojournalist, but Diaz makes morally strong decisions: he may have sacrificed some shots early on, but being a good person should always come first.

“There’s always debate of when to take pictures and when not to. For me, it’s always been clear: if I can help, I would do it. I knew I had to be a humanitarian before I was a photojournalist.” – Al Diaz

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4 responses to “Should Photographers Help or Shoot During an Emergency?”

  1. Arun says:

    Well said, he really deserve the Humanitarian award. None of us should never forget under any circumstances that we are human first and later everything else.


  2. Glen says:

    Great to hear that we are not forgetting what it takes to be a photographer:
    Firstly, we have to be human…everything else comes after this requirement so we must behave as such – Humanely!

  3. John Burzynski says:

    I can’t even believe that we are asking this question….has society gotten that callous, is the need for media coverage that great, that we’d let someone suffer or die in the name of taking a news photo? I can’t imagine anyone who knew how to help not giving CPR to anyone and standing by taking photos instead.

  4. Pat D says:

    I’m an amateur photographer (mostly wildlife and nature) and a professional emergency worker (firefighter/medic in a large city) and when off duty I do occasionally enjoy taking fire scene photos.

    There is no question that when an emergency happens in front of you, your first priority as a human being is to help your fellow man/woman to the extent of your capabilities and training. Everything else is secondary. I think Al Diaz did exactly the right thing and I am glad to share a planet with such a person.

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