This project is collaborative and participatory in nature, and because I am not taking the images, I feel there are different considerations in regards to the ethics of my project than those that may normally exist.
‘A photograph never exists in isolation. It is always part of a triangulated relationship which involves the photographer, subject and audience.’ – Max Houghton
Photojournalism is by its very nature collaborative. This means picture editors, writer, designers art directors, and editors all share responsibility in the ongoing life of a photograph. In the case of this project, I am not taking the photographs so I am not in control of this representation. However I am using the images and making a selection from those that I have been given and the way in which I use them can give me some control over the representation which I do have to consider the ethical implications of.
At the moment I am asking my participants to give me images from throughout different times in their lives. Some of this may be very personal or sensitive to them and so it may be hard for them to allow me to see certain images, especially if they are unaware of where the images may go or how they may be used to convey them. Ethically I only want to use images if my subjects are 100% happy for me to and if they are happy with the representation it portrays of them. As it is a participatory project, their input is very important because it would be ethically wrong of me to use an image or some text they are unhappy with as this goes against any personal ethics I have in regards to representation as well as going against their wishes and exploiting them after they have helped with the project.
In an article for the BBC some very important points were put forward in regards to ethics which I think are very key and relevant here.
Many factors come into a play at the moment of squeezing the shutter. Does the photographer have the consent of the person he is photographing? If the person is not capable of giving their consent (if they do not speak the same language, or are injured for example, or even dead), is it appropriate to continue photographing?
If the person in the photograph is in obvious distress or danger, should the photographer put down the camera? Are there circumstances in which the photographer should provide help or assistance? If the photograph is taken, after all these considerations, who will see it? How will its future dissemination affect the people in the photograph?
All these questions are very key. Although I am not expressly taking the images in my photographs, it is still very relevant in terms of how the future dissemination will affect the people in the photograph. If it future the representation I show can be or may be detrimental to my participants, I need to really consider if it is worth showing that representation.
Personally I feel my ethics are very strong in certain areas. I would assign copyright to any images that are not my own and ensure that credit is given where it should be. I will not use any images that I am advised to not use, as well as removing them if required. I will be considerate of any wording used that is a. not my own or b. my own. Sometimes words can be just as detrimental as a bad representation within a photograph. I will therefore be considerate and aware of what I am writing as well as allowing the opportunity for those I am collaborating with to check it over. I will ensure throughout the project consent is given and that I have all the copyright in place that I require to protect those I am working with as well as their images. I will also be aware of what is being shown in images, just in case these may have a knock on effect in certain years, especially if they are on a particular topic or are debatable in some way.
Ethically, I feel this project has been carried out in as ethical way as possible. I do not want to exploit my subjects in any way shape or form and so I am trying to avoid this by giving them the control over the work and the editing process. This can ensure they are happy with the representation of themselves and happy to be portrayed like this. Exploration for ones own end is a part of ethics that I am particularly concerned about because I feel it is all too easily done with no added benefit to those who have been exploited. I want to ensure this is not the case with this project, by giving my participants something back from the project, such as the final book once it has been created, so they have something back from their efforts and their time.
Treating subjects with respect is one of the ways in which I hope to stay on the right side of ethical implications for this project because photography and representation is all about respect for the subject. I believe I have used ethics well throughout the project and I am aware there are many, many different ethical considerations more than that I have discussed. However I do feel that although I am representing my subject in a topic that some may be very judgemental about, I feel the way in which I have portrayed it is a fair representation that I would hope they would be happy with and will appreciate in years to come.
Overall I think throughout the project I have been very considerate of ethical implications to the wider world as well as directly to my subject and I think it has greatly influenced the way I have gone about this project and how the final portrays has taken shape. But I am happy that I did what was ethically right for both parties and have been as ethically aware as I can be.