As part of this week’s readings and lectures, we were asked to consider the power and responsibility of photographers. I have considered below the following questions that were posed at the end of the first presentation.
As an image maker or author, what moral dilemmas do you encounter in your own practice, or more broadly, around the medium of photography?
I often find a moral dilemma in taking photographs of people in the street without them knowing. There is nothing sinister to the photograph and it is usually the only way to get a truly natural photograph of people in their environment, however it does sometimes feel like you are stealing a photograph. These days I try to at least explain to any subject why I am photographing (before or after).
Do you have any models of your own to assess the appropriateness of an image or how it is used?
I haven’t used a formal model to assess the appropriateness of an image or how it is used. One way of thinking that I have developed is to put myself in the subject’s shoes and ask myself would I be ok in his or her position to be photographed and would I be happy for that image to be shared on whatever platform I am considering. It also doesn’t harm asking the person when this is possible too!
One of the most striking images taken recently was the photograph of Alan Kurdi on the beach which prompted the tutor to raise the following questions of the cohort:
Do you recall any memories or experiences at the time of the publication of the photographs and footage of Alan Kurdi’s death? What are your own views on the appropriateness of the publication of these, or similar kinds of image? What is your own assessment of the impact of these images?
I was shocked at the photograph when I first saw this and incredibly saddened by the situation. I remember that this photograph did help change the perspective of a lot of people on the migration issue and it created more sympathy towards the migrants. Sadly nothing has changed apart from the view of a number of European’s on the migrants’ plight. Since then there have been hundreds if not thousands who have suffered the same consequences as Alan.
It is a highly sensitive subject but I think it was ultimately right to share this image given the circumstances (nothing could have been done to change anything at that moment in time) to highlight the realism of what was going on in Syria which was perhaps to some just another war in the Middle East. It is sad to see what is happening there and the plight of the people. Another more recent image taken in Syria is that of the bloodied Syrian boy, Omran Daqneesh (Links to an external site.), in the ambulance shell shocked. Whilst this is a still image from a video it is still an image which in this case seems to have been taken with a view to prompt a public reaction – upset and shock. As a father of two young boys I found this very difficult to deal with and it made me feel that the person creating the image should perhaps have done more in this case to comfort the boy rather than capture the video.
What has challenged me this week?
The biggest challenge this week has been in researching the legal frameworks in photography which I hadn’t really looked into until now given that I have not been producing images for clients before the course. It was also interesting reading up on different ethical stances with respect to photography.
What have I learned this week?
Having considered photojournalist Jeff Mitchell’s image of refugees crossing from Croatia to Slovenia in October 2015, which was used controversially by the UK Independent Party during the 2016 referendum campaign to leave the European Union, I have learned that I need to take greater care with the way in which I engage with future clients to protect the way in which my images are used.