Introducing the Photography Ethics Toolkit

By Savannah Dodd

The Photography Ethics Centre was founded less than one year ago with the intention of raising awareness about ethics across the photography industry and around the world. Before the Photography Ethics Centre was founded, when it was just an idea, we knew that we were biting off more than we could chew. How could a small organisation possibly tackle such an enormous task? We knew that we would never be able to cover enough ground to make a dent in this global problem. The solution, we decided, is online training.

When the Ethical Journalism Network heard our plans, they jumped on board to support us. EJN connected us to the Thomson Foundation, who now hosts the training through their online platform, Journalism Now. They then connected us to Kate Holt and Salim Amin (one the EJN’s trustees), who are now experts providing reflection and experience through videos in our online training. Our partnership with EJN has been a great asset to our organisation, and we look forward to continuing to grow this relationship.

We are now thrilled to unveil our first online training programme: The Photographer’s Ethical Toolkit. This course is designed to be a first step in understanding photography ethics. It provides a broad overview of key ethical principles and applies to anyone who regularly takes or shares photographs. Best of all, we are offering it free to everyone, worldwide.

The Photographer’s Ethical Toolkit is just the first of many online training courses we plan to offer. In early 2019 we will launch our first advanced course in photography ethics. Our advanced online training courses will be genre-specific to tackle tough ethical questions in greater depth.

Of course, online training alone cannot replicate the kind of learning that happens in a classroom. That is why we complement our training programmes with discussion forums, live video chats, and peer-to-peer interaction. Our first live video chat took place on Friday, October 12th hosted on the Thomson Foundation‘s Facebook page.

Photography Ethics and Why They Matter

Before you jump into the course, you might first want to know what exactly we mean when we talk about photography ethics.

Photography ethics are the principles that guide how we take and share photographs. When we talk about photography ethics, we are talking about principles of responsibility, power, dignity, and respect, among others. Everyone will answer ethical questions in their own way, based on their own life experience, the value systems in which they operate, and the situation at hand. That is why we do not give photographers a checklist of ethical guidelines.

Instead, we teach ethical literacy. We give photographers the tools to think critically about ethics in their work and the language to define their own ethical practice. It is extremely difficult to make ethical decisions in the moment, and often these decisions have to happen in a split second. We present examples and raise questions so that photographers are better prepared to face ethical dilemmas when they occur.

Experience of working through difficult ethical considerations gives photographers tangible tools to be more effective in their work. It helps photographers to build relationships, to communicate effectively, and to gain access to communities in a socially responsible way. It also prevents photographers from unknowingly breaching national or international laws and ethical norms about privacy and confidentiality, consent, and child protection.

The Photographer’s Ethical Toolkit

The course is divided into six sections:

  • Section 1 provides an overview of the course and introduces the course trainer and media experts.
  • Section 2 discusses photography ethics and introduces three key ethical principles in photography: Empathy, Autonomy, and Integrity.
  • Section 3 explores how empathy can be applied in photography.
  • Section 4 explores the principle of autonomy in photography and discusses how you can handle consent in different situations.
  • Section 5 explores the importance of acting with integrity toward the audience.
  • Section 6 summarises the key points covered in the course and lists some takeaway questions to consider in your photography practice.

By the end of the course participants will be able to:

  • Apply empathy, autonomy, and integrity to your photography practice.
  • Understand the considerations that impact ethical decision-making in photography.
  • Engage with important ethical discussions that are taking place within photography.

We look forward to seeing you in the course! If you have any comments or questions, you can direct them to Savannah at [email protected].