Positions & Practice - Power & Responsibilities
Updated: Nov 9, 2020
When taking a photograph there are always three parties to consider, as emphasised in Susan Bright's 'triangle of relationship between the sitter, photographer and spectator.
As the photographer (author/image maker ) it is sometimes easy to focus on the spectator (audience) and get the shot you think they will want, the image that will get the most likes on social media, or the photograph that will have the most impact in terms of photo journalism. It is vital that the subject is not lost in this.
The image opposite was taken in Birmingham when twins ran into my field of vision and I knew straight away that I had a shot, both myself and my 'social media' audience would like. However before taking any further shots I went over to their mother and showed her the image, seeking her permission to both keep it and share it via instagram.
Whilst this was a personal decision on my part I can honestly say without the parents consent I would not have felt comfortable using this image.
If we compare this relatively gentle image with a more famous image of a child I am sure we can see both the parallels and differences between them.
Alan Kurdi's body was washed up on a Turkish beach when his family were fleeing the crisis in Syria. This along with a number of perhaps more disturbing images were captured at the time and became to symbolise the humanitarian crisis.
With his mother and brother also drowned, the photographer had no parent to get permission from but still felt compelled to not only take the photographs but also share them with the various news agencies across the world.
Was he right to do so? I guess there will always be arguments for and against this, but what cannot be denied is the huge impact that these images had worldwide and galvanising people to their cause.
The images also emphasise the power of photography in this digital age. There were moving images also recorded at the time and yet it is the still photographs that seemed to make the biggest difference at this time.
As a photographer I am acutely aware of the impact my images can have on both the subject and viewer. As highlighted above I would never take a photograph of a child without permission as well vulnerable adults. Likewise I have a 'moral decency' built into me that recognises what my audience would expect to see in terms of the taste and content of my work.
However I recognise that this is based on my current 'practice' which tends towards creative photography where individuals are largely anonymous or blurs across the image. As my practice evolves and maybe becomes more street photography based I realise that my consideration in terms of what I shoot will also develop as will the impact on both my subjects and audience.