I have a list with story ideas for several weeks. I was thinking about ethics a lot later. But a discussion on a forum made me jump, and I thought that’s probably the most important thing.

It often happens to meet other amateur photographers on a trip. And sometimes I feel ashamed that I have so much in common with them in the eyes of the locals. We have the same skin color, the same origin, and there is no doubt that we will be associated… You have certainly already met some, people who have no respect, behave on conquered ground. It’s not limited to photographers, but that’s the subject of this blog, so I’m going to talk about the photographer traveler’s ethics (yes, that’s the title of the article).

Portrait stolen or portrait posed?

Personally, I really like the portraits posed (see gallery), where the model looks at the lens and smiles. I like that you feel a certain complicity between the photographer and the subject. But I understand very well that we appreciate the life scenes, in the humanist way (although some of Doisneau’s photos were staged). It allows you to seize a moment, to tell something. For the photo to be successful, in both cases, the other must be respected. Many photographers, once on Asian soil (among others), forget this notion. But imagine Japanese people coming to stick to your face, without a hello, without a thank you, to shoot us. Or hide behind a wall to get you on telephoto!

Last summer, in India, I was very shocked by a man who went to stick to women washing themselves on a ghat (those stairs that lead to the water, in which they do the washing, the ablutions and the toilet). It is already very unseemly to go in the middle of people, like that, in such an intimate moment, but in addition, he started taking pictures of an elderly lady and a young girl, who was probably a minor. They told him to stop, everyone looked at him. The other women told her to get out. I myself came forward, to tell him to leave, thinking that coming from another tourist would have more impact. He pretended not to hear and only left after taking more pictures.
Oh, I can understand the photographic interest of the scene. However, I am pretty sure that his picture is bad: the two characters look at him showing their disagreement. It’s closer to a paparazzi picture than a National Geographic cover. My Belgian says that « this bastard » was taking pictures with « his little rotten (red) mobile phone », that the pictures are therefore « surely disgusting », and that he really hesitated to « make him drink the cup by smashing his shitty camera between his jaws » but to avoid wasting time by scaring the calm people who washed, he preferred to leave him prey to his Karma…

However, photographing scenes of life, while respecting people, is perfectly possible. But it means taking your time. We can’t just show up, take his picture, and leave as soon as we can. For example, you can start by taking some posed pictures. The models can be seen on the LCD screen, laugh with you. There is a beginning of exchange. Then they resume their activities, and you stay and watch them. The idea is to be part of the scenery. They forget you, resume their activities, and you can take pictures knowing that you do not disturb them. In any case, keep the device visible, be discreet but do not hide: do not act like a thief. To ask permission, no need to talk, smile as you lift the camera. According to the country, the proportion of people accepting is more or less high but generally higher than 1/2!

We are not journalists

In conclusion, behave when travelling as you would behave at home. There are probably a lot of other points to talk about, but these are the three that come to mind at the moment. Maybe I’ll do a sequel later! In the meantime, I’ll let you give me your point of view (I’m nice)!

A propos de l'auteur

I am a wedding photographer and I have the chance to travel all over the world. On this blog, you will find both travel and wedding stories and tips to make your own blog photos a success.

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