To even supposedly exaggerate the enormity of power that reside within the frame of images wouldn’t exactly be exaggeration so as to say. For in photographs, there resides indeed a striking potential, of effectively relaying what it intends to in a manner that not being based on the starkly expressible content of words and letters and languages tends to be a very emotional way in ‘speaking’. And it is this nature of pictures and images and snapshots that lead them to tread a domain so easily defined in the convenience of ambiguity but in essence beholding such clarity that is only possible to be availed out of the unique photographic art deriving so much upon notions of the technical. And therein lies also a consideration in considerable complexity as regards the nuanced exploration of the realm in which photography resides in so much power, bringing into the picture such issues in ethics and conscience and integrity of what needs to find focus under the spotlight.
To exactly pinpoint such consideration of the ethical in any field of concern though isn’t something occurring as absolute. Because ethics being a stemming out of such realisations and awarenesses that are very individualistic and therefore as personal as well means that one’s standards of ethical need not find resonance with others as well. Specifically in photography, that already resides not so much in a clear cut reference of even its physical ideals, let alone its morals, wanting to be ethical in this usually passionate pursuit does not guarantee a true adherence to that idea in representation. And yet, that does not anyway mean that the power embedded within the fore of images render them so invincible and supreme and absolute that they can defy any possible expectation and disregard every principle that still exists somewhere between these lines of only a fine difference.
Which is to say that photography ethics matter and they matter substantially as well, even when they might be far from universal or even farther away from existing really as something needing to be taken into account while on the hunt for the next winning shot or even a mediocre one and just about everything that manages to capture attention, at least of the camera lens if not of the world. The dilemma though will continue to persist in some way or the other, what with terms and conditions like how one sticks to those ideals of their own definition or how even the viewer of the image choose to interpret it as accounting vastly for the hugely encapsulating phenomenon that photography is. The challenges in conjuring might be as numerous as the many views that one might attribute to the same image but to skilfully, carefully and honestly maneuver through these considerations beyond also the equally important characteristics in line and length is a craft as immaculate as the art itself.
The basis may vary as to what classifies as ethics and in what priority of their ranking as well but the primary consideration in photography still has to be its most important charting of consent. Irrespective of whoever it is that one is trying to capture in how much stunning a representation of them, it always is necessary that the camera focusses only on them who desires indeed all that attention. Of course there might be the associated issue in this case of squandering almost a chance for the candids, or in other words the true translation into images of living realities and not posed ones. But that does not have to be the only possible outcome of this situation.
The hallmark of a truly skilled photographer lies in their ability to go snap at such opportune moments and periods of time that they can be capturing something or someone more than alert but still manage to catch the most natural glimpse of them. It all boils down to having a keen eye indeed to seek out the most minute of details in the most ordinary of existences to eke out therefore a uniqueness that necessarily prevails across every single range of existence in this uniquely beautiful world. There needs to be a well considered approach indeed in all exercises of photographing and one such important aspect entails also courtesy on part of the yielder of the camera and by that measure the immense power it holds to first and foremost ensure that their subject of interest does not have any objection whatsoever to their intentions.
Consent though tends to be crucial even beyond the very act of photographing itself. Extending as well into such associated- or rather intertwined processes in going snap- that manifests as the all amazing aspect of editing yielding once again the power though to emerge as something not usually very well regarded as in the manipulation assertion is the necessity for consent to be explored. Indeed the very connotations in manipulating and seeking out consent happens to be contradictory which is why the consideration of the latter in photo editing too occurs as a proposition fit for an ethical dwelling upon of it.
Following up on the manipulative potential that photography harbours in its post production stage is also a similar such influence that asserts even during the period of its performance as art indeed. And that stems as the appalling situation in presenting just one side of the story. As the one holding absolute authority in projecting the picture, the photographer commands once again a power in relaying exactly what they want to and in such measure that does not even require them to tweak the image in distorting the facts. So absolutely dipped in perfection is the photographic print in its vast compendium of tools and techniques and angles and lines that allows for each layer of reality to reveal itself that makes it a cakewalk for pursuers of it to choose exactly that manner and mode of doing that serves their underlying purpose in capturing, if any. The question of ethics in this context arises therefore in choosing to present the whole truth or not of what is evident, however as a somewhat complex entailing in decision making.
Manipulation though can take yet another form in the photographic agenda as and when the camera rolls out, by controlling and commanding the subject of them to display such poses that aren’t ‘real’ enough. The nuances in this case might be a tad bit too difficult to pinpoint as well as not so easily frowned upon as unethical perhaps since even in staging the pose of something proclaimedly real, what ensues as the final image is indeed very much capturing of the event as it is. But the tactic in cheating might still go on to define the nature of that image thus produced making for an example in ethics violation even when that might not be something absolutely agreed upon or universally called out due to the more ambiguous premise of its happening.
A more general outlining of the ethical elements embedded in photography relate to circumstances contemplative through a different approach. Under scrutiny here would be not the subject of photography but the source of it, as to the original creator of some particular capture for instance. Encompassing in this regard everything from blatant theft of the work of others or even their insight in much striking evidence playing through to more furtive attempts at plagiarising the idea and vision or even the subject of interest conjuring up that specific sight frozen in time, photography like every other form of skill based work tends to fall prey quite easily to the lurking predators all around.
Returning to the specifics of ethical photographing finds one in quite a soup, with one of the most contended cases unfurling through one of the most popular premises of photography. Travel photography is a huge craze for amateurs and professionals alike and all of us like to take pictures of ourselves as well as of the locales and the attractions as also the locals themselves when we set out to compile for ourselves that composite travel diary of ‘authentic’ experiences compiled up largely in images. And risked in this entire behemoth of excited streaks in snapping and preserving memories is a certain curiosity that threatens almost the identity of the very culture we think we are curating.
In going about our own way in taking pictures of our trips and travels, we might be affording for ourselves an acknowledgement in privilege of being firsthand witness to the most dramatic of landscapes and the most famous of structures and the most buzzing of cultures but in our own way of at times mindless representation what we end up doing is further stereotypes and existing notions of them that while might not be wholly inaccurate but is also not the complete truth of their traditional accord. Whether it be capturing such experiences and episodes and elements for project purposes or keeping in view a certain creation of distinction or even not attending to anything in particular, we all might be guilty of taking the luxury a bit too far in exploiting the photographic tool as an artistic medium in allowing ourselves unreasonable and excessive interference and intrusion in to such lives and existences of the world unassumedly going on with their own business in much simplicity with utter contentment. Taking the onus upon us to portray their settings and way of functioning might emerge as a feel good assertion in all validation but a deep delving into and detailed deliberation upon the propriety of all that we do can make us perhaps question our own standards when it comes to dismissing the ethics that even the elaborately expressive essentialism of photography does not grant us the exclusive right to ‘turn a blind eye to’ in all encompassing of its essence.