Professional photographers, James Nachtwey from the TED talk, are just that, professionals. It is their job and livelihood to take photos that are used to tell a story in some way. The media pay photographers to take dramatic photographs so that whatever story is being covered in the media has an added layer of depth and drama, which gets more viewers.
But it’s not that simple. I don’t believe photographers exploit tragedies. It’s not black and white, photographers, yes, take pictures of conflicts and horrible events because people will buy them. Everyone has to make money somehow. But I agree with Nachtwey when he says his work is bearing witness to war, and in his cases, genocide and disease. He uses his gift to raise awareness and strike audiences to raise money to help people.
What professional war photographers do is completely justifiable when you take into account their intent. If they intend to use the photographs to bring good whether it’s raising awareness or fighting the cause, then they are bearing witness and not exploiting. Sure, photographers exist that simply do it for the money. They go out, find the most gruesome shot they can and sell it to any media outlet they can for the most amount of money. But most photographers aren’t like that. Photography is a gift and a skill and can bring about a lot of good. Getting paid for doing good work is just an added benefit.