Are you an ethical photographer?

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

  1. I cannot possibly see how something so simple as
    "Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful"
    would be harmful, wrong, bad, or unsound advice.

    I am of the opinion that religion's basic tenets of good are reasonable and strong, and I feel there is much to gain from centuries of wisdom from all sources.
  2. I think the world has always gotten into trouble regarding religion, when it needed the authority of a God to enforce its teachings. Some of the basic teachings are common among all religions (as Ricochet nicely showed), reinforcing the power of common sense and a moral compass that comes naturally to humans. To ignore that inherent morality and blindly follow scriptures under the threat of punishment is what gets civilizations into trouble.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2020
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  3. I would not be so quick to assign all that or all anything to any single religion. Christianity is but one (not the first) in a long line of similar schools of thought. Their stories vary but the basic tenets are similar. Long before any religion was invented (yes religion is a human construct), different people in different places had similar spiritual beliefs.
  4. I don't see the thoughts and preaching of the worlds religions as the problem. I'ts the way that they have been and are still being interpreted. This has been going on for at least 2000 years form the Christian Crusades to current Islamic jihads.
    This has strayed away from ethical photography in the way these forums do (may long it continue) :)
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2020
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  5. A great starting point Richochetrider. I have found that I need to add a focused layer of empathy to the approach. In regards to photography I have had to learn to not use myself as the gauge. what you would not like yourself.
    I do not mind being photographed in what many would consider as compromising or inappropriate situations. I like photos that go beyond what many consider a line that they would not cross or want to be the subject of. I am ok with being the subject even if it crosses my line, my line is fluid. So I have to consider where that line is for others. Respect. Not always an easy balance. But in photography it is easier for me to start with what others need.
  6. Religion was mentioned, but it's not the only (or best) angle. There are tons of discussions on the web where some people point out that ethics and morals ONLY derive from religion or God, from where I'm standing that's a separate off topic discussion.

    Where I live one newspaper disliking (openly) a president, decided to post pictures where he was in the middle of blinking, opening or closing his mouth, etc. The result was an absolute parody and lack of respect: it was on purpose. It is not ethical or professional (regardless of whether they like or not the president or anyone else). Sure, we could do the same to the owners and they would not like it and will consider that to be unprofessional.

    Lots of "professional" photographers won't doubt on capturing any moment where people show being hurt, emotionally vulnerable or something alike, they want to treat everything as war photography.

    What about Magazines? a place where I used to work produced a magazine for women. The cover photos featured really white and blond models while including the slogan "just like you" WTF, most of the local public didn't resemble those pictures not even with 5x 100Watt bulbs. Later there was an intensive communication course provided by a local psychologist who happens to manage big brands online, she immediately complained about the hypocrisy of featuring absolutely out of this world women and pretending to sell the slogan "just like you". Her speech was long but precise, she hit the nail on how most women magazines are actually negative to the self esteem and promote absolutely unreal expectations, including the promotion of intense white skin.

    Living on a region with lots of indigenous people, there are photographers who try to use them for "amazing pictures" that later they sell without asking permission or giving them some money out of it.

    x2, one of the photographers on that company I described had a dark and aggressive sense of humor, I guess that's "fine", but then we made an article about X place and he fell sleep. Dude was absolutely upset that I shot a picture of him sleeping on the back seat, humiliating? I don't think so, his jokes to the coworkers were too spicy compared to just having him on a picture... asleep with open mouth. I guess he was afraid of others doing what he usually did: making fun of people.

    I believe things being in public places (including people) doesn't make them public or in the public domain.
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  7. I think this is beautifully said and comes across as being very sincere. It also captures some of what I hadn't put into words for myself about potential shortcomings of The Golden Rule and like-minded sentiments. One's own desires become the compass in The Golden Rule. Empathy seems to go beyond the self-orientation of The Golden Rule. A very important addition.

    Then I started to wonder about flipping inoneeye's scenario where he doesn't mind and even prefers having lines crossed when he's the subject but doesn't necessarily assume others will appreciate those same lines being crossed when they're the subjects. How do we fully translate that to other photographers as well as subjects. There are photographers, and there have been some really good ones, who have wanted and preferred to cross lines as photographer which sometimes means crossing what others might consider lines in how a photographer can "ethically" shoot and/or portray others. We may sometimes confront competing empathies, for photographers crossing lines and for audiences or parts of audiences who don't like lines to be crossed. It's one thing to judge for ourselves what lines not to cross based on empathy for our subjects. It's another thing to judge for other photographers what lines to "ethically" stay within based on those same empathies for their subjects, because the needs, desires, and purpose of the photographer in question have to be considered as well.

    Example: Were I in a concentration camp that had been liberated, I'm not sure I would have "approved" of a photographer shooting holocaust victims at their most vulnerable and intimate states, considering what they had just been through. That could have felt like very genuine empathy at the time. And I'm not sure whether the subjects of those photos themselves would have wanted their picture taken at the time. But isn't it a good thing we have those pictures and wouldn't many of those same holocaust survivors who might have not wanted that imposition on their privacy at the time be thankful in retrospect for the documentation that survives and that has done so much to portray the horror of what happened?
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  8. Agreed on all points.

    Lots of what has gone on to be great art was not necessarily welcomed with open arms when it was first made. Art sometimes comes from extremes. From pushing people (and things) way out of bounds. Pretty sure we could all think of at least one photographer who shocked people with their work.

    That said, a discussion of ethics remains relevant and vital. I think it’s important for us all to check in every now and then on this fluid concept of ethics. Each of us probably needs to decide where our own boundaries are- to accept that ours might not match anyone else’s. And to accept that our own ethics may, or likely will, shift periodically.
  9. No, I don't agree with Rousseau's view either. In fact, I think society plays a big role in our upbringing, and morality and ethics are reinforced to a large extent through coexistence, but at the same time giving rise to harmful traits like ultra nationalism. Given stressful situations or imminent danger, self-preservation will kick in and many people (who are otherwise moral and ethical) will behave selfishly or irrationally. At the same time, we read about heros all the time who behave selflessly in such situations, saving lives.

    Its not that humans are inherently selfish, and that societal blanket keeps them moral. I think, humans come with both selfish and community friendly traits, with all sorts of extremes and levels in between. Its the societal coexistence that reinforces the good traits, like good genes.

    Morality and ethics may be products of the society, but its the collective mandate of the individual. After all, its the individual who forms societies.
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  10. That's a tough one for me. I spent the first 5 or so decades of life living within boundaries either that I had decided on or that I felt obliged for whatever reason to limit myself to. Along with my foray into photography has come less enthusiasm for boundaries. I still hope to be ethical (in my terms more than in society's, because I often think society gets it wrong) and it may just be that my experiences of the past are now able to guide me instinctively without my having to try or decide. I also currently love it when I find opportunities to expand my boundaries and to discover that things I used to consider unethical may have just been my own way of avoiding risk and even positive temptation.

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  11. So if you're a pro and make money from shooting homeless people to show them in some periodical, then you're ethical and pure. Hmmm.
  12. But you also have to look from the other side of what happened to countries that abandoned God.
  13. What gave you the impression this is even in the same universe as what Mike is saying? Please reread the paragraphs by Mike you quoted and see if they have anything to do with being a pro and making money from shooting homeless people to show them in some periodical. Or at least make your point more coherently and let us know more clearly how it's relevant to what you've quoted Mike as saying.

    Anyway, this fairly in-depth article gives some sense of Robert Frank and, hopefully, can move the discussion away from some unrelated notion of making money from shooting homeless people. I'm glad I found and read the article to discover some extraordinary things about Frank, especially compared to some other "professionals." Among many other interesting things about his life, experience, work, and ethics, there were some particularly difficult times in his life when he was willing and able to offer himself as a subject (and not necessarily a pretty one), well far afield from any sense of exploiting homeless people.

    NY Times article
  14. That’s true.
    But who formed the society?
    The world is a less violent place than it has ever been.
  15. I wasn’t talking about abandoning God though. I was speaking against treating God as a vindictive authority who hands down punishments. A lot of good teachings in religions have been watered down because people were forced to follow them without understanding and under threat.
  16. ummmm... I can think of several countries where the government and people would be considered quite devout yet are dictatorial and authoritarian in nature. Iran and Pakistan leap to mind.

    Then we have things like Christian Crusades, from 1095 until 1291, the so-called European Wars Of Religion in the 17th and 18th centuries,
    BBC - Ethics - War: Holy wars
    Five of the most violent moments of the Reformation
    Look to the 21st century and at what is happening inAfrican countries such as Nigeria right now
    Boko Haram

    not to mention *other* wars raging endlessly, 2 of which are being waged by the biggest and baddest "Christian Nation" in history (which has its own current share of internal struggles, in religion & culture).
    8 Deadliest Wars of the 21st Century
    and on and on... every religion has massive amounts of blood on its hands, so I don't buy the theory that having "god" in your pocket keeps a country or society pure.
    History across the ages, unto & including now, disproves that theory.
  17. Never cared for it since they don’t let you whack off ...
  18. all very good discussion here... and it all still comes down to what one will or will not do or allow within themselves or one's peers, and what one will and will not tolerate, so bak to ethics, in photography and elsewhere! .
  19. Perspective.
    Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot.
    Less than 50 years.
    The numbers are staggering.
    Stalin and Pol Pot with millions in just a few years each....
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2020
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