“To ask what one’s ethics are when making photographs of other people is as complicated as asking what one’s ethics are in general.
“I should start by explaining why I don’t call my work documentary. To begin with, the way the word “documentary” is understood by still photographers, particularly in the US, is extremely limited and strict. The second is that I am not primarily motivated by the desire to document things. I am motivated more by the desire to create things, to make photographs that rely on things/facts found ‘in the world’ but that are then shaped and altered according to my vision of them.”
While I admire Halpern’s work, I disagree with his straw man portrayal of documentary photographers, who, according to Halpern follow a ”strict” set of guidelines. To say the documentary school concerns itself only with the objectivity of the thing photographed is a misreading of the form. It dismisses decades of work by the likes of Stephen Shore, Thomas Struth, Bernd and Hilla Becher and Candida Hoffer, to name a few who focus on the complicated interplay between objectivity and perception, sign and signified, history and myth.