commandments for photography, not prayers

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by JDMvW, Sep 4, 2020.

  1. It's late, I'm in a temporary lull in the effects of my chemotherapy, and I'm feeling far too righteous, so you'll have to ignore or abhor the preaching.

    I grew to photographic and general adulthood from days when men were men (if they were white) and women were girls. I attended segregated schools until Jr. High.

    At the time a 'candid' photograph of a passed-out drunk was high art. A look at any of the photographic magazines of the 1930s and 1940s will show many examples of distasteful images dressed as art (could I mention Mortensen?).

    Many of us who grew during and after WWII on have been educated into different, even 'PC' viewpoints by our younger colleagues and particularly our own children, but we still can often be rightly accused of being tone-deaf when we fail to realize that times truly have changed. (Both of our current Presidential candidate encounter this problem frequently, being of a 'certain age.' Many older folks who have not been so educated are still around, but shuffling off. Of course, these attitudinal 'problems' are not only a matter of generations, but also a matter of class in the sociological sense (in what is touted as a classless society).

    Now that I have perhaps offended some of the old boys here, I will offer, ex cathedra, some commandments for photography in the 21th century:

    1. First do no harm.
    2. Do not photograph others as you would not be photographed yourself
    3. Do not 'steal' images from people for whom their small 'tips' from being photographed are much more important than you might realize.
    4. As 21st century photographers are discovering, releases for commercial use are no longer just for Europe and North America
    No doubt you can offer additions or "counter-commandments"
  2. Perhaps I should also mention that I had a anchovy and garlic pizza for my evening meal?
  3. Commandment #1: Thou shalt ply your art with no purpose other than to glorify it.

    Commandment #2: Reread Commandment #1.
    Ricochetrider likes this.
  4. I don't go out photographing with a morality chain around my neck. I don't need an outside set of "commandments" to guide me. I'm perfectly capable of guiding myself. I've even done some questionable things on my time on Earth and have learned from them and been able to deal with whatever consequences result.

    Self discovery has been a vital part of my evolution. Religion, whether to God or photography commandments, doesn't suit me.

    Example: Commandment No. 2 (Do not photograph others as you would not be photographed yourself)
    Why not? Does every photographer who's photographed nudes need to pose for nude photos themselves? Don't get me wrong. I have done both. And so have many others. But it's not a "rule" I'd lay on anyone else.

    Commandments provide a comfort zone. Much of my own photography is meant to get me out of that restrictive zone.
  5. Push the button 100 times a day. Going out right now to do just that.
  6. Sympathies on your chemo. I'm hanging out with a handy drainage bag from a recent surgery. We come from similar times but I like to think I've evolved a bit. A liberal upbringing didn't hurt either. I'm not that PC on the little stuff but damn, it's always been worse for some folks than I ever imagined, and remains so today. Anyway, Photography Quotes

    I've always loved the Agha oath. I think I've even got the original magazine stashed away someplace.
  7. ‘Don’t eat pizza when you could have bought another camera’ ?
  8. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "First do no harm"

    . . . pretty much covers, everything, every condition, every situation.

    I'd stop right there.

    Lou_Meluso and petrochemist like this.
  9. For me, that would be just a start. I'll wager each photographer would think different things they might do with a camera were harmful. So, someone telling me they won't do harm with photography would have to give me examples of what they believe harmful in order for the platitude to have any real meaning to me.
    michaellinder likes this.
  10. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Simple - never ever take photos of folks who are suffering, down and out, addicted, etc. The "documentary" excuse doesn't cut it unless that is your employment.
    2Oceans, SCL, katsone and 2 others like this.
  11. That's a good start. Thanks, Sandy. It gives insight into your own photography and I'm sure others feel differently about taking pictures of "folks who are suffering, down and out, addicted, etc." Yours is a good personal guide ... not in any way universal.
    inoneeye likes this.
  12. Sam, apparently I should have attached disclaimer of sorts so that my 2 "commandments" wouldn't necessarily be taken literally.
  13. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I don't wager very often; anyway I wouldn't take that bet, because I agree that there would be different definitions of 'harm' / 'harmful': definitions were not the point of my comment.

    I was hoping for more a semiotic recognition and interpreation of the phrase - "First do no harm".

  14. I didn’t think I was being definitional. The phrase is associated with doctors, historically, a profession that operates within strict ethical guidelines, consistent with the notion of commandments. Photography, I’m trying to say, is a different ballgame and doesn’t need commandments.
  15. I didn’t respond to your post and didn’t think to take what you said literally. No disclaimer needed.
    michaellinder likes this.
  16. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I understood from your Post #4 that was a point that you were making (i.e. photography doesn't need commandments).

    The point I was making was that Photography, requires 'ethics' (taking your word to better explain): and yes "First do no harm" is often attributed to the Medical Fraternity, my use of that phrase being semiotic applying it to Photography.

    I think we are discussing two slightly different but similar matters, neither of our contributions comprising comments with which the other is mounting a direct counter nor a disagreeing argument.

  17. Yes. Thanks. The discussion interests me, whether we agree, disagree, or are advocating slightly different positions.

    As for "first do no harm," I think it makes more sense in the medical field. And I think it's just a start there as well. What doctors can do is fill in the blanks of what will cause harm with specifics and follow guidelines to avoid causing harm, as defined by science and their profession. One simple example might be, "don't perform heart surgery on a person who needs knee surgery ... therefore, read each patient's chart carefully and do a lot of double-checking before performing surgery."

    I'd maintain that we can't fill in the blanks of "do no harm" for photography, because what one photographer considers harmful (as in Sandy's post) another will not. Commandments suggest universal guidelines. Doctors follow universal guidelines in order not to cause harm. I don't think photographers do.

    Since I don't believe every photographer should (and I'm glad they haven't and don't) follow Sandy's guidelines *(though I respect his following them himself), how shall we fill in the blank of what causes harm in photography? It's not a science and I don't believe there is or would ever be universal agreement on specific applications of "first do no harm." Therefore, for me, it just doesn't apply or mean much, as it does for doctors.
  18. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Well... I did ask for a semiotic recognition and interpretation of the phrase, and that's what the phase symbolizes to you. Can't argue that point.

    We two are definitely advocating different positions. That's fine.

  19. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    while we're being medical... I am sure that we're all wishing Jon all the best with the chemo.
  20. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    I have no interest in directing others - honor and "virtue" are personal choices based on upbringing, education, and life experience. I have and hold mine.
    Lou_Meluso likes this.

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