For those of you who have followed my work for a while, you’ll know that ethics plays a big role in how I approach my practice. I’ve previously written blog posts about how my own queerness impacts my approach to photography, and the ethical values that I believe it has inspired me to take on. I like to hope that my values are pretty evident to anyone who visits my website.
Recently the Photo Ethics Centre challenged photographers, whatever their place in the industry, to write a statement of ethics. While I talk about ethics informally all the time, I thought writing my own would be a great thing to do; it encourages accountability by giving me a standard to hold myself against, and I’m hoping it may encourage others to do the same – or even just create more opportunities for conversations about ethics with the photographers in my immediate circle.
I’ve spent the past week or so mulling over what my core values are as a photographer, and the principles that I feel are most important to commit to:
I believe that taking photos of individuals or groups without their consent can cause harm – sometimes this may be very direct harm, while at other times photographs can be used to create false narratives or stereotypes. I pledge that anyone I photograph will be asked for consent in advance. I will also ensure that I engage in further conversations about use of the finished photographs, particularly with regards to use online or in print.
I believe that as a professional freelancer, I have the ability to make my business more accessible. While I want to ensure I am paid fairly for my work, I understand that many people don’t have the financial means to pay the rates that photographers tend to charge. I therefore pledge to offer accessible pricing structures. This will include reduced rates for each of my services, intended for anyone on low-income or benefits. Most importantly: no one will ever be turned away for lack of funds.
I believe that the use of editing software can raise complex moral questions. The photography industry plays a huge role in the creation of beauty standards – beauty standards which often involve being white, cis and skinny – and editing software can be used to alter portraits in a way that makes them more aligned with these standards. While I do make use of editing software for colour balancing, exposure, cropping, etc., I pledge never to use it to remove or change the natural features of my subjects. I will not engage in practices such as excessive airbrushing, altering a person’s skin tone, or changing their body shape.
I believe that many people feel as though they don’t get to see themselves, or people like them, represented in images. I pledge to ensure that my work represents many different types of people, including different genders, sexualities, ethnicities, skin tones, body types, physical abilities and financial backgrounds. Where possible I will aim to highlight those who are often under-represented in images.
I believe that all businesses have a responsibility to be conscious of their environmental impact. I pledge to consider the environment in every aspect of my work, ranging from transportation, to printing materials, to reuse of equipment. As a wedding photographer, I pledge to not work destination weddings.
I believe this code of personal ethics will hold me accountable. I pledge to acknowledge and hold myself responsible for any mistakes I make, and to reflect on and try to learn from those mistakes. I will also review this ethical statement on a yearly basis, so that as my understanding of ethics grows and evolves, my ethical practices will evolve with me.