I’ve chosen a video for this exercise. It shows Dr David Dao being removed from United Flight 3411 at Chicago O’Hare international airport in April 2017. This video, taken by Audra Bridges and shared via Facebook, actually made the story what it was and gave it credibility.
Dr Dao was one of four people with booked and purchased seats on the flight who were asked to “deplane” to make room for United personnel. The 69 year old doctor refused a request to leave the flight as he had work duties to meet. He resisted physical attempts to remove him from the plane, suffering concussion, two lost teeth and a broken nose as security attempted to remove him from the flight, twice. He later settled privately with United Airlines after they admitted full responsibility for the incident. The episode brought home to me, at least, the fact that buying a ticket doesn’t actually guarantee you a seat, and more disturbingly the powers that United Airline security believed it had to seat staff over paying customers and to forcibly remove passengers who had declined a request to leave the plane.
The video is missing the information of what happened before, which according to initial comments from the airline, contained belligerence from Dr Dao. I think the remaining video is largely objective, not least because there is not a lot of room on a plane to film something unobjectively without setting the scene up before. There were also multiple witnesses to the incident. Do planes have security cameras? it would be interesting to see that footage if so. It’s certainly the case that the widespread use of mobile devices means that incidents such as these in public spaces are very likely to be recorded and made public.
I think objectivity is a hard thing to achieve in any kind of photography/image recording. There are always at least two agendas at play – that of the photographer and that of the viewer, and if the photograph has a human subject then there may be a third agenda there too. Even if the agenda is to be as objective as possible, that in itself could end up influencing the result.
While I was researching this I was also reminded of the episode with Jeremy Corbyn who was videoed by a Labour film-maker sitting on the floor on a Virgin train because there were no available seats. Virgin responded very strongly with cctv showing Mr Corbyn and his party walking past empty seats in the reserved carriage, before sitting on the floor between carriages and being filmed. Is either set of video objective? Probably not, but my gut feeling is that the cctv is more objective (despite my own experience that it’s hard to find a pair of unreserved seats on the routes that I use).