So far I’ve been making great progress working on my “Photo-a-Day” assignment, and finished up this week’s theme of “Family.” I took photos of a number of family members, and there were a few that really made me think quite a bit about how I relate to the rest of my family (particularly how my memory of them ties into old family photographs). I really wanted to capture the “liveness” of my family, using a sort of verite aesthetic, so I didn’t let them know about my project, or that I was photographing them, until after I had finished. Of course, all of them were more than happy to participate, but it got me thinking about our class discussion regarding media ethics (or what is “right” or “wrong” to do when filming, photographing, etc.).
Was what I was doing really ethical? Were there steps that I needed to take in order to make sure I was following ethical production practices? In class, we talked quite a bit about documentary and the supposition of “truth” that accompanies “documenting” reality, which is something that guided my desire to try to capture the reality of my family members daily lives. But this poses an ethical dilemma because they didn’t knowingly participate in the project. The solution I found was to talk to each of them once I was done, show them the photo I had taken, and then get permission from them to use the photo for my class. This way, they had an opportunity to tell me that they approved of how I had portrayed them, and they had an opportunity to say no. Of course, there was one family member that couldn’t give permission, our little dog Penny, but I don’t think she’d mind in the least. Did anyone else struggle with a similar problem?