Sara Lewkowicz has received a lot of criticism for documenting the physical assault of Maggie, a 19-year-old mother of two.
Lewkowicz was documenting Maggie and her boyfriend Shane as he assimilated back into a normal life after much of his life in prison by capturing photographs of their journey.
The couple had a strenuous relationship. Shane frequently expressed his dislike for the fact that Maggie paid more attention to her children than him.
One night the couple gets in to an argument while Lewkowicz was photographing them. The argument turned physical and Lewkowicz snapped photos as Shane assaulted Maggie.
TIME published Lewkowicz’s photos in an online article where she received much criticism for continuing to shoot rather than try to stop the violence.
Kelly McBride discusses the controversy in an article on poynter.org.
McBride includes Lewkowicz’s response to the incident, including that she is “a 5’2″ woman. I am not physically equipped to do what you are suggesting.” Lewkowicz also includes her fear that should she intervene she would only create a bigger problem. Her phone was used to call 911, and she even rubbed Maggie’s back after she became physically ill.
After citing Lewkowicz’s explanation, McBride acknowledged it as “a reasonable series of decisions.” However, she does ask the question could something have been done to be better prepared for a violent situation and did TIME handle the story correctly.
I feel that Lewkowicz acted accordingly in the situation. She was not in any physical state to try and stop a man that larger and stronger than her. By intervening she could have put herself in danger and also escalated Shane’s anger and violence.
As a journalist it is difficult to say that we should always intervene in a life threatening situation. It is our responsibility as humans, not journalists, to help others when their life is in danger. However, every situation is not the same and thus cannot be treated the same.
A classic example of this is the picture that was run of the woman drowning during a storm. The photographer shooting the storm had no way to help the woman on the other side of the beach and would have only ended up drowning himself.
Lewkowicz faced a similar situation in the sense that her intervention would have only made the situation worse.
In response to if TIME handled the story and their response properly, I would say the story was handled well.
It is part of a journalist’s duty to open the public’s eyes to problems in the community, and this story does just that.
After viewing the story myself, I think the photos are well done and tasteful. The photos of the assault, themselves, are moving and eye opening without being too graphic.
Lewkowicz’s response that McBride published was, in my opinion, entirely adequate in addressing the concerns that had been voiced. She also included her response in the body of her story on TIME.com.
Lewkowicz handled the situation as well as she knew how and created an amazing story that needed to be told.
Shane, 31, attacked his girlfriend Maggie,19, in their home after an argument one night. Photographer Sara Lewkowicz captured the incident on film and published it on TIME.com.