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Thread: A note by Steve Simmons about the Fatali incident

  1. #1
    Founder QT Luong's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 1997
    San Jose, CA

    A note by Steve Simmons about the Fatali incident

    Here is a note that Steve Simmons sent to me about the Fatali incident. His e mail is

    After our March/April issue was published, we received a volley of criticism for publishing Michael Fatali's photographs and article. It seems that in September 2000, Mr. Fatali, while leading a workshop in Arches National Park in Utah, lit four fires around the Delicate Arch in order to light the area for some nighttime photographs. Apparently, this technique has been used by other photographers in other areas for the same purpose. However, even though Mr. Fatali had permission to be in the park conducting a workshop, he did not have permission to light any fires. Three of the fires were set using Dura-Flame logs, and the fourth was set with wood gathered in the area. At the conclusion of the session, he and the workshop participants stomped the fires out and left the area. The next morning one of the park rangers discovered the remains of the fires and the footprints of the participants on the rock and in the dirt areas around the arch. One or more of the fires was set in a tin bucket, and there may have been some melted tin on the rock and ground surfaces as well.

    This incident was given some attention in Utah-area and Las Vegas newspapers. I am also told there were some discussions about the event in a nature photography discussion group on the Internet and that Outdoor Photographer reported on it but did not name the photographer involved. At the present time the incident is under investigation by the National Park Service and the Salt Lake office of the U.S. Attorney General. It is my understanding that no damage was done to the Arch itself but that scars from the fires remain on the ground and rock areas around the Arch. Restoration work is planned for the area.

    The question asked of me was why did we publish Mr. Fatali's article given his conduct. In the eyes of some, I compounded my ethical mistake by offering two of Mr. Fatali's photographs in our Print Collector's Program in the same issue. The fact is, I was unaware of the problem and was not told of the incident by Mr. Fatali when I contacted him in early December 2000 about doing the article. Mr. Fatali also did not inform me of the problem when I asked him about including two of his images in the collecting program. In fact, I did not become aware of these events until after the issue was distributed; I was alerted by one of my readers about a discussion thread on a large-format web site.

    This situation raises several questions. Do I wish I had been informed of the problem by Mr. Fatali before we published his work? Yes. Knowing what I now know, what do I wish I had done? In perfect hindsight, this could have been an opportunity to do a sidebar article on the proper conduct for a photographer in a national park-we did actually talk about park policies related to photographers in another article a couple of years ago. We may think that we are free to take our tripods anywhere we please, or that a simple transgression can be excused because of one great photograph pursued in the name of preservation. This is the wrong attitude. The parks belong to all of us, and anytime I show up with a camera, not to mention a tripod, I represent everyone who will come after me. If I do the slightest damage to the park, it will be more difficult for those that follow me. No photograph is worth damaging the subject we claim to love and want to protect. It is the subject itself that has the greater value and not my photograph of it. A sidebar piece such as this could have raised everyone's awareness of this issue and created a healthy discussion. Now that I am aware of the problem, what am I going to do about it? For the time being we have suspended all sales of Mr. Fatali's work through this magazine. If we can work out a system to donate all of the proceeds to the National Park Service Foundation at a later time, we may offer his prints again.

    In conclusion, I can only say that this situation has some irony to it. From the narrow, business viewpoint of a publisher, this was a very good issue. The beauty of the images in the March/April issue won us many new subscribers. The Friends of Arizona Highways, for whom Fatali was leading the workshop (and who have suspended him from leading more workshops) ran an ad in the same issue. They have received a large number of calls from people who, inspired by Fatali's photographs, want to take workshops. However, I am disappointed by this publishing experience. It has been one of the more frustrating of my fourteen years in the business. I am more than just a publisher. I live on this earth, I care about it, and it is more important to me than success in business. This experience has helped me redefine my role as a resident of this planet, and I hope that others, in reflecting on these events, will remember to "walk lightly and leave no trace" in pursuing the great art of photography.

    Steve Simmons

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Mar 1998

    A note by Steve Simmons about the Fatali incident

    Hurray for Mr. Simmons!

    Boo for Fatali for his dishonesty and deception by silence in his dealings with View Camera!

    Hurray for Q.-Tuan Luong for keeping this forum going!

    And finally hurray for the members of this forum and also for Philip Greenspun, our host!

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Apr 2001

    A note by Steve Simmons about the Fatali incident

    Hear hear!

    I second that one. Thanks for the wonderful forum to speak about these issues. Thanks to Steve for advancing the large format community. Thanks to Q. -Tuan Luong for the wonderful site. My new found hobby would not be the same without these resources.

  4. #4
    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Honolulu, Hawai'i

    A note by Steve Simmons about the Fatali incident

    I'll second that as well. Simmons letter strikes the right tone, and I'm sure his business will not suffer for having done the right thing, while Fatali's will for having not done the right thing.

  5. #5

    A note by Steve Simmons about the Fatali incident

    Steve-thank you very much for a thoughtful and well written note about your recent issue. I appreciate all you have done for LF through your own efforts and through your excellent magazine. In hindsight, I am certain lots of people (knowing what they know now) would have done things differently to avoid this situation from ever occuring, but I do not believe you did anything improper, wrong or imprudent. I respect you even more as result of this letter.

    Tuan-you have handled this situation with dignity and fairness. Maybe now, we can turn to other matters.


    John Bailey

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Sep 1999

    A note by Steve Simmons about the Fatali incident

    I am often amazed by the lack of judgement exhibited my many within our society. I am also proud of those like Mr. Simmons who exhibit a high degree of responsibility in the practice if their professionan. I believe that Steve Simmons and View Camera is following the right path. I also believe that Mr. Fatalli if proven guilty after the formal investigation is completed should make restitution for the restoration of the damage.

    We are here on this earth for but a very short time. We carry a burdeon to leave what we have found for the generations to come. Thanks Steve for a most mature and professional outlook regarding this incident. In addition, thanks for a great magazine.

    Michael J. Kravit Palm Beach Photographic Centre Board of Directors

  7. #7

    A note by Steve Simmons about the Fatali incident

    I enjoy the View Camera, and I find something useful in every issue. However, I was somewhat disturbed by the inclusion of Fatali's photographs in the recent issue. View camera loses credibility by failing to thoroughly vet its contributors. If someone as isolated as myself knew of Fatali's ethical lapses, Mr. Simmons certainly could have (and should have) known. It is a small step from this sort of editorial malfeasance to having advertisers write editorial copy.

    Nonetheless, it isn't too late for Mr. Simmons (and Mr. Fatali) to make amends. If Mr. Simmons is willing to supply the paper and ink, I'm certain there are plenty of us who are willing to provide him with a frank ethical discussion of this issue.

  8. #8
    Kevin Kolosky
    Join Date
    Jun 1999

    A note by Steve Simmons about the Fatali incident

    While I certainly do not applaud Mr. Fatali's methods, and do applaud Mr. Simmons letter, I would remind all that this incident is so very very small compared to what is really happening to our beautiful earth. come to Minnesota and see the terrible scars left by iron mining. look at the littered sea along the coast of Santa Barbara where the oil rigs stand. Not to mention that there will be no carbon fuels left on this earth in a few hundred years at our current rate of consumption. Yea, I don't like what Mr. Fatali did, but we are all guilty, whether directly or not, of contributing to the slow but sure destruction of our beautiful earth. Kevin

  9. #9

    A note by Steve Simmons about the Fatali incident

    Thank you Mr. Simmons!!!!!

  10. #10

    A note by Steve Simmons about the Fatali incident

    I think Michael Fatali owes View Camera and its readers another explanation. In the article he wrote he said: "I tend not to use color filter or artificial lighting when in the field". Difficult to believe after hearing from the Arches incident. One can now be very suspicious about the bright yellows and oranges in his photographs. Did he use the same fire technique and did he leave traces of it in other places? It is hard to believe that the Arches demonstration was a first time practice?

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