Are you an ethical photographer?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by invisibleflash, May 12, 2019.

  1. Ethics is a popular topic.

    Petapixel had an article on it. They banned me, so can't comment on it.

    Are You an Ethical Photographer?

    In the film era I don't think anyone mentioned ethics very much. But nowadays, some busybody wants to you to live life on their terms. When it comes to professional news work / photojournalism, then sure, have a code of ethics. But if you are not working for a paying client, then you can have more freedom to work.

    As I am not much of a nature photog, they can't blame me for destroying nature from too much people traffic trying to get a selfie or a sunset. But I've heard all sorts of other complaints of ethics violations from people...don't shoot kids...don't shoot people without their permission...don't do HDR... don't shoot homeless people...don't clone that stray cig butt out of the photo...don't do selective color...if you pay a person $$ your documentary photo is are exploiting people for your own fame...etc.

    Whatever the complaint, the busybodies complaints can be upheld or dismissed with one question...

    Is it legal?

    If it is legal, then I can do as I please. If it is not legal, then I have to abide by the law. But if I do my photography to the gospel according to busybodies, there are enough differing opinions that would virtually wipe out most of the subject matter that I do shoot. Of course, if the SJW get a hard-on for you, they will dox you and try to destroy you whether something is legal or not. This is the foundation of the soft civil war America is in this very moment. 50% of the people hate the other 50% and wish for their demise. And that hatred can extend to your photography as well if they take a disliking to you or it..

    Now we do have societal conventions most of us live by. So just because something is legal, it does not make it always the best approach for day in day out steady diet living. So use some common sense and a dose of the golden rule. Sure, I will push things to get a shot. Sometimes being an asshole goes with getting the street shot. But I try and be the least amount of an asshole I have to be by developing skills. The higher skilled you are the less of an asshole you have to be. And if you feel guilty for the work you do, then by all means do something else.

    Here is Weegee's take on it...You can't be a nice Nellie and do (street) photography.

    Weegee Tells How : Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Archival Collection : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

    Weegee in his room - Archival Collection

    movingfinger and Allen Herbert like this.
  2. You are of course free to consider anything that is 'legal' as being ethically/morally acceptable to you. In other words, within the law, you have no personal ethical or moral considerations.

    I'd just point out that for many people, if something is 'legal', it doesn't automatically mean that it's 'ethical' (or 'moral') too. You might, Others might not. Laws and ethical standards vary from country to country, from group to group and over time. Moral standards vary from person to person also over time.

    For individuals, 'Ethics' and 'Morals' are used pretty interchangeably. If there is a difference, then 'Ethics' is some kind of 'code' (always in flux) that is generally accepted/shared by a wider group (culture, organisation, profession, etc.) while "Morals' are personal. An individual's Moral code may differ from a code of Ethics: it may conflict with the code of Ethics on some issues or (voluntarily) be even more restrictive than the code of Ethics allows.

    Just as you are entirely free (within the law) to let your own moral compass guide you in taking and publishing photos, so are others free to express their opinions (based on their own ethics/morals) on your morals, photography and the photos you publish. That's just the nature of 'communication' and interaction.

    In the same way, everyone is free to share their opinions and discuss 'Ethics' in photography. Just as you have. You have your views, other people have theirs too. I'm sure that most organisations (and certainly media outlets and photo-sharing sites) have a code of Ethics - often part of the Terms and Conditions.

    Street photography is my main interest too. I personally like Eric Kim's advice on being open and honest in street photography (both with yourself and your subjects). His advice is that street photographers should ask themselves why they're photographing a homeless person begging on the street. Are they really contributing to a valuable social commentary (which is in the interests of the homeless too)? Or do they just need a quick 'homeless pic' to add to their website portfolio? Even Bruce Gilden - considered by many to be a 'bully' and 'in-your-face' street photographer - is always able to socially engage with his subjects, and explain what he thought was interesting about them and why he took their photo.

    Just like in any photographic genres, there are some wonderful (current) street photos. But from what I see on 500px the vast majority of so-called street photos are cliched, voyeuristic ot plain boring and add little or nothing to street photography. The numerous photos of attractive young women (sitting, walking) are not - in my book - 'street photos'. They're just plain voyeurism. The never-ending series of photos of wizened old men/women are just repetitions of a cliche.

    I do believe that the ongoing 'Ethics' discussion about privacy/voyeurism/exploitation in so-called 'street photography' is worthwhile. Not just to protect the 'subjects' but also to channel 'street photographers' into photography that is more valuable and worthwhile.

  3. Ethics is something that you will have to sort out for yourself. Being offended has become sort of a new industry in this country. No matter what you do someone will get their undies in a bunch and be offended. I say "screw them". If they don't like it they don't have to look at it. You are your best editor. You can figure it out. I know I have taken many pictures that seemed ok at the moment but once I developed the film and looked at the contact sheet I decided not to print it.
  4. movingfinger and Ricochetrider like this.
  5. William Kahn likes this.
  6. It seems to me that "legal" and "ethical", although they can overlap at times, have little to do with each other. At one time it was legal to own slaves; that did not erase the ethical and moral hideousness of the behavior. It may be perfectly legal to stick a camera into the face of a mother who just lost a child to some disease, but I think the ethics of doing so have nothing to do with the legality of it. If you want to be famous or rich from your photography, it may well be necessary to act unethically (think paparazzi). But I think being unethical is unethical, and I try do avoid it in my photography and other aspects of my life.
  7. 'Ethical' photography seems to me include photos of people who explicitly agree to having their photo taken, people who you genuinely feel would benefit from having their photo taken and people who - due to their 'celebrity status' - already know that they are fair game for photographers,

    'Ethical' photography excludes IMHO photographing people from a position of 'ego': photos that (without any other benefit) that add to a portfolio. The best photographers work together with their subjects. Photography then becomes a collaboration between photographer and subject. A far cry from 'stolen' street photos!
  8. Oh my goodness.

    Pray do tell who is the arbiter of ethical photographer.
    Ricochetrider and LineMartel like this.
  9. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

    Hmm... I'm ethical. I've rarely
    killed anyone when I'm out
  10. Ethics in street photography aren’t cut and dry enough that I think a global search for questionable types of actions or qualities would be helpful. I’d assess on a case by case basis. Candid and even aggressive street photography has its place, sometimes an important one, so working together with subjects would not be a bottom line for what’s best in my view. A lot of great photogs have had mammoth egos and using those egos to further their work led to great results.

    Arbus got the cooperation of most of her subjects, yet people still accused her of unethical exploitation. Arbus may have exploited, in some sense of that word, as many photographers do, but I don’t think she was unethical. I’m thankful for her photos, even though they were somewhat shocking at the time and still trouble some people today. Dorothea Lange May have exploited Florence Owens on a certain level but was not an unethical photographer and wasn’t unethical in that instance. I think ethics are often a balance of interests and doesn’t have an on-off switch according to pre-defined criteria.

    Photographers and artists often play on the edge. They have to come with thick enough skins to withstand being questioned and judged for that.
  11. Street/Documentary is about photographing the world as it is.

    Why would they hide truths?
    eb_kidd and denny_rane like this.
  12. Ethical considerations change from time to time. They are dependent on the moirés of current times, and the moirés of the current political religious climate.

    And then there are the religious/nationalistic believes. These vary from national state ,to national state ,and often create conflict between themselves both in the belief they are righteous and God only supports them.

    The Street/ Documentary photographer is a simple soul, they just tale photographs of the world as it is....without any bias of political/religious persuasion.
  13. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Sorry, disagree - myriad agenda driven - then the smaller group of "simple souls"
  14. @myriad agenda driven " Sandy.

    not all walk that path.

    Vietnam war think on it. There's always the honest and truthful- humanity is better than the soulless.

    And they walk the same path today.
  15. In a different world the last photo could be our daughter or son.
  16. Ethics.

    A marauding thought.

    If a group of poor folks turned up at my mates Sandy's ranch asking for food and medicine. What would his response be? Threaten to shoot them or help them.

    Methinks ,he would help them. And then as payment he would expect them, as payment for his kindness,, work on his land to the debt was payed

  17. [​IMG]
    Ok, whatever you say. But it's incredibly narrow and presumptuous and not sure what you mean by 'ego' photos. But suit yourself. As you say, its your humble opinion, not a rule to be followed by anyone but yourself.
    John Di Leo likes this.
  18. I don't know where to start. I'll keep it short and just say I'm happy Robert Frank did not feel ethically constrained, as defined above, when making photographs for The Americans.
    denny_rane and mikemorrell like this.
  19. @Brad_ I humbly agree with your comment and your example.

    My comment was purely based on an 'amateur photographer' mindset.

    I don't know 'Americans' but from the Wikipedia page and the few photos I've seen, Frank used his Guggenheim Grant to photograph different classes of 'Americans' and in a different way to the 'norm' at that time. My impression is that Frank was truly inspired and motivated by his authentic photographic/artistic 'vision'.

    I'm doubt whether his subjects derived any benefit from his photos but I'm sure that American society as a whole and photography did. His goals were certainly greater than himself.

    Thanks for your comment!

    Perhaps that's the main point of my original post: are you photographing for some 'greater good' or only for your own personal benefit?

Share This Page