Power and Responsibility
I wrote the following after a talk on ‘Ethics and Photography’ as I try to outline my own practice and ideals.
“There are no photographs while I’m reloading” Garry Winogrand
“The right of a person to privacy in a public place is equal to the right of a photographer to take a photograph in a public place” Nick Turpin
“For me, documentary photography has always come with great responsibility. Not just to tell the story honestly and with empathy, but also to make sure the right people hear it. When you photograph somebody who is in pain or discomfort, they trust you to make sure the images will act as their advocate.” Giles Duley
“Photography is about finding out what can happen in the frame. When you put four edges around some facts, you change those facts.” Garry Winogrand
“Looking at the fundamentals underlying the ethics of street photography, the photographer is typically an artist whose goal is to capture an image that ultimately becomes an artwork and/or a record of social history. Street photographers work to an ethos of the right to the freedom of expression and enquiry to capture the world around them in images.”
Heather Shuker in an article titled “Street photography: rights, ethics and the future (Links to an external site.)”
While there are differences between the process of documentary and street photography, I think that the underlying principle for me is the same: to negotiate an analysis of the moment with myself and the subject in how to best capture and represent the photograph that I take. This may be in the actual moment of taking the photograph, or in the decision afterwards to use the photograph or not.
This might apply to when wandering the street and taking a photograph without permission. Or in a process of documentary photography where the intention is to clearly capture and record the event that is unfolding.
My aim is to never demean or belittle within a photograph or when photographing but to also realise that that the reasons for taking a photograph may not be fully formed, or completely apparent to me. That is what I was thinking or intending when I take the picture, maybe different or re-shaped afterwards when working on the photograph.
My ethics include:
- To find the joy, vitality and joy within human expression and life, while also exploring the pain, the mundane and the ordinary within society.
- While personally feeling uncomfortable about shooting certain subjects, that I never shy away from photographing such moments or subjects, but that I treat each moment and or the subject with respect and dignity.
- To not think too deeply about the why of the moment which I am considering when in the moment.
To seek extraordinary moments in the ordinariness of life, and use photography to document the social landscape of society.
- At the heart of my practice it to make photographs of society that are unvarnished, unfiltered of the moment in time.
- To never manipulate or stage a street or documentary photograph.
- To provide context or explanation if approached as to why I am photographing.
That the editing and post-production work should be minimal and maintain the integrity of the photograph.