Ethics of sharing

20150725_193257Events in Turkey and Eastern Europe at the beginning of September 2015 have rightly been highlighted by the media. The decision to print the image of the drowned younger Syrian brother became a turning point in how people migrating to Europe were perceived. It also sparked debate about the use of the image.

This isn’t a post about that photo, however I’ll watch that debate with interest as it will no doubt be compared to Nick Ut’s Napalm girl and the image of the Iraqi soldier from the Gulf war. Both images had significant potential to change public opinion if published; which they were.

This is relevant because I’d just launched this blog following this year’s holiday realisation that I’ve moved from seeing where I go not so much in terms of places but more in terms of how people interact with those places. I’d been considering the ethics of capturing and sharing images of people in public places. There’s a helpful post here explaining the considerations better than I could.

In summary having permission to take photos and publish is one thing but it being and feeling the right thing to do is another and especially when you title the image which could put a different slant on it.

I work in a creative industry and we need to use images of people on a regular basis. We need permission from the people involved to use them in our work. At any events where we intend using photography or video, we always explain and if anyone isn’t comfortable they can make themselves known and we ensure they are not captured. Ensuring we have the correct permissions for various future uses can also be tricky but not surmountable. Having a current photo-library is never going to happen and as most folk nowadays have significant photographic and publishing equipment of their own in the form of smart phones, this adds to the permissions and currency debate both as opportunity and risk.

There are times we find a perfect image from our library but don’t have permission for a particular use. That’s life, it can be frustrating but the image can’t be used.

So to understand the ethical issue more, I set up this people watching photoblog to explore the implications of first capturing images that shhow public interaction with a place and then see if it was possible to publish it without changing the context and how I, and perhaps others, would feel about it.

There are some images in the collection I’m much less comfortable with sharing than others. Whilst they capture people exactly as they were interacting with their surroundings, labling them may be doing them a dis-service. See what you think.

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