„Like a coat of rain“ – About ethics in photojournalism

Work in Progress

Latest article: 

„Die Stimmung in Europa hat sich drastisch verändert.“

Gespräch mit dem Fotografen Olmo Calvo über Seenotrettung und seine Erfahrung an Europas Südgrenze in Spanien.
Fotograf mit Zweifeln

What is it about?

„Like a coat of rain“ was the starting point of this project. Questions about current photojournalism and the photography of today and tomorrow. „Photographer with doubts“ is the implementation. In individual chapters questions are asked and answered by experts. Photographer to speak, exhibition makers, art critics and specialists in ethics. The bandwidth of opinions is getting longer. 

Work in progress. Open source. Swarm intelligence.

The questions dealt with here are not (or only rarely) answered by the author and are not exhaustive. On the contrary. The variety of responses from different people creates a breadth of knowledge from which, dear reader, you can draw whatever you want. Any new opinion and question that extends the entire spectrum is welcome: info@gottlicher.de

Where is it going?

This project started as an idea. After years of work, the end is in sight. The questions of ethics are gradually being published as chapters. With text and video. In the end, it will make a book that summarizes all the questions. Likewise, there will be a movie that puts all chapters in a row. Then I will think about the exhibition, which summarizes everything.

Where can I see the results?

The chapters are published by Riffreporter in German. Here is the link. There is also a Youtube channel and a Facebook page.

How can I support it?

You can follow the project on social networks, support it with Riffreporter and soon with Patreon.

Is the project in German? 

Many languages are spoken in this project. The conversation partners come from very different countries. We already had German, English, Spanish, Catalan, Italian, Finnish, Swiss German and Swahili. The project is currently being written and published in German, because that is the language that best masters Björn Göttlicher. Then follows the translation into English and Spanish.

The question of what means ethics in photojournlism today. The personal participation on reporting about the suffering of others. The ambiguty between glory and compassion. The social and media use of photography in our daily life.

Interview partners 


Fotograf mit Zweifeln


documentary & book project

Between fame and compassion. An inhuman ritual that has been documented by generations of photographers, is for me the starting point to a documentary about ethics in photojournalism. As a multimedia producer I take a look at the creation of some of the latest high valued photostories done by Finnish photographer Meeri Koutaniemi and Spanish Kim Manresa about a horrible theme, as it is the circumcision of the clitoris in children. At the same time I want to question the meaning and functioning of photography in the world today.

I’m interested in the ethical aspects of this issue. I am concerned with the question of personal participation, voyeurism in society and the fame of the artist. Making interviews with professionals of media and photography I want to work out if photojournalism is like a coat of rain falling on society until it’s capable of change.

I am looking for answers to the following questions:

  • What is the higher purpose of photojournalism?
  • Can photojournalism make the world a better place?
  • What are the ethical rules that should be followed?
  • How does photojournalism bring change to a society?
 Does a possible change in the mindset of people depend on the culture they live in?

And more specifically:

  • Is the work on a project, that is so marked by personal suffering, something a photographer can prepare for emotionally?
  • How much is a photographer affected by the personal fate of a child/a person and how far can personal involvement go?
  • Why do certain themes in international photojournalism repeat cyclically?



Art is awareness raising.

The broad debate over ethics in photography and particularly in photojournalism has narrowed in recent years into questions of aesthetics and the manipulation of the image. This is evident especially in the World Press Award, the most prestigious prize for journalistic photography, where just last year a winner got his prize revoked because his pictures were not authentic enough. For me personally, the debate about ethics is a different one, one that goes far deeper and is much more difficult to answer.

A proverb says: A picture is worth a 1,000 words. But can a moving image still reach the hearts of people when they are already exhausted by the constant media flood of news?

A recent aspect of my work is the current refugee crisis in Europe and reporting on it. Even though many refugees have made the long trip to Europe, it was one single photo, published on Twitter, that has shaken the European public. It was the photo of a dead child on a Greek beach that became the symbol for the personal tragedies and the suffering of the migrants. People need icons to understand the world and to act. This is the role of photography and it becomes more and more important. I want to make this part comprehensible and tell the stories of the people in and behind the pictures.

I have a deep interest in finding out in my interviews whether the work a person does makes a difference in this world. Often the small stories make us a different artist/ photographer but also change us forever as human beings. Maybe I will be a different person after completing this project.

Does photojournalism today have a way that allows dedicated reporters to stand up for human rights or is it merely the result of a media circus, where young artists are willing to present the horrors of the world in a exhibition?

Fotograf mit Zweifeln

Latest talks

„Ethik und Ästhetik ist Eins“

L. Wittgenstein