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The Ethics of Photographing Locals

Tom Maybrier

When does tourism become exploitation? Do travelers and would be portrait photographers have a responsibility to their potential subjects?

This article asks that question and relates some very interesting information about what happens on a community level when tourists take aim in poor cities with expensive cameras.

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  • Alessandra Rizzotti

    I firmly believe that we should form relationships with people before we take photographs of them. Not only for the dignity, respect, and protection of the person- but also it is the only way to really make a photograph mean something. I know that's not always possible, especially if it's an action shot or spur of the moment observation from the distance, but I think that protection is the most important thing these days, especially with online sharing.

    "When a tourist takes a photo of a local, even if they seek their permission, it is unlikely they explain how they will later use that photo. This can be dangerous. A photo harmlessly posted on Facebook perhaps with seemingly minor details like the person’s name, town or village can lead to that person being contactable or located.

    Most international and grassroots organizations that work with local communities, particularly those that work with children, have policies and procedures in place to protect their beneficiaries from abuse and exploitation. These include strict rules around the collection and use of information including photos and personal data. When these organizations collect such information from their beneficiaries, they are required to explain how it will be used, whether it be in a brochure, a TV advertisement, a website article or for internal records. The person being photographed, filmed or interviewed must understand and be comfortable with this before the information is collected, and parental consent for children under 18 must be sought."