Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Right to Respect & Dignity... photographs

Many non-profit organizations publicize the work they do
using photographs of the people they are helping.
They show what they do, who they help, and 
it helps them in fund-raising.
On the other hand, other non-profits have policies where no photographs 
are to be taken of any recipients of their help.
Which is the ethical action here?

The photographic portrayal of any individual which 
denies their dignity or puts a blemish on their reputation
can create huge controversy.
This is not a new.

Here's a story from U.S. history.
In 1936, the writer John Steinbeck was commissioned to write several articles about California migrant farm workers for the San Francisco News. These migrants were typically Americans who had fled the midwest to California, when their crops were devastated by the dust bowl climate of the 1930s. To accompany Steinbeck's text, photos were taken by Horace Bristol, staff photographer for Life magazine. Other documentary photos were also published, such as the now-famous photo by Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother (1936). 

Migrant Mother, 32-year-old Florence Thompson with 3 of her 7 children, 
Nipomo, California, 1936.  Photo credit: Dorothea Lange

Then Steinbeck wrote the fictional novel, The Grapes of Wrath (1939).
Instead of photos, it was accompanied by illustrations by Thomas Hart Benton.

Benton's illustrations for The Grapes of Wrath show the plight of the California migrant farm worker.

The Grapes of Wrath was heavily criticized, denounced as "obscene sensationalism," for not being realistic to the migrant's situation; the Associated Farmers group accused Steinbeck of fictional fabrication. It was banned in Bakersfield, California, Kansas City, Missouri, and Buffalo, New York. It was ordered burned in St. Louis. Hollywood used the publicity, making it into a film version, starring young Peter Fonda.

The photographs and illustration and film scenes 
linger in the memory, maybe longer and easier than the writing text.
The "dust bowl" migrants of the 1930s will always be remembered with these visuals.

How and when do we choose to portray the visual of a suffering human?


This blog post is also connected to 


52 comments:

Anonymous said...

If an article is being written about human suffering, they have the right to decide whether or not they want their picture taken and posted along with the writing. I dont think it's ever right without the consent of the people or person the article is about!...NYH

Anonymous said...

I think every individual has a right to decide wether their picture should be usesd or not, i personally think that the picture would show their emotions, and give the reader a better understanding of what they are reading, but without their consent it should be thrown away, i wouldnt want to see my face on anything without knowing.
MTM

Anonymous said...

We human beings are visual and pictures make a powerful tool to any writing material; hence, the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Non-profit organizations should continue to use pictures to assist the reader in understanding the gravity of the situation. EL

Anonymous said...

If they agree to have pictures taken of them, then there’s nothing wrong with that. It gives a face to where your donations are going, makes it more personal, and I love that. BG

Anonymous said...

Allowing the public to become more aware of an individual's struggle can only bring the attention and help they need. And honestly, accomplishing this visually can be one of the fastest ways to influence emotion and attention. Although, the questionable factor would have to be the photographer's intention. If the idea is to downgrade or disrespect without the subject's approval, then in no way should this action be considered. MV

Anonymous said...

Having someone's true emotions photographed builds a connection with the viewer. A personal photograph may help the viewers know where exactly their donations are going. In my opinion as long as the person in the picture knows that their picture is being used there is no issue with using it. AVJ

Anonymous said...

Photographs are a great memory recording method. Not only it has changed the way we remember things, but it preserves memory in time. It offers instantaneity and has the ability to capture actual events, a slice of reality. Even though, it can be manipulated and distorted in some cases, I support the use of photography to preserve information when there is a useful meaning to it. Due to differences of opinion, creating an image out of a text reading may vary among individuals with diverse believes, rather than seen a photo or video, that provides a vivid perception of the scenario across a multitude. Photographs are a confirmation of memory nowadays; which helps us reflect, make better determinations, or change concepts based on real captured visual evidence. COCO.

Anonymous said...

I think, the permission is required if the photographs is for a commercial purpose. For example, you cannot use the photo if it endorses a product for sell. Also, you must respect photographs of the medical records which require permission of the owner. MCC

Anonymous said...

A picture can provide impact that is impossible with just words. A picture is just more real than words, no matter how well the story is told. Our minds just believe what our eyes see more than it believes our imaginations assembly of words. A photograph can be the necessary supplement to the emotion of a story or context given in words.

NLG

Anonymous said...

If I found out a non-profit organization did not allow pictures of those it is supposedly supporting, my skeptic radar would fire a warning flare.

MRM.

Anonymous said...

Every person has the right to decide whether to have their picture published or not. The idea of dignity is being associated with both a concern for equality and for protection against the risk of harm. It does not admit to any degrees. It is equal to all humans. It cannot be gained or lost. Any living human being, even one severely disabled does not loose human dignity. Even where freedom is by law denied, dignity must still subsist. There are many pictures of Jewish people who suffered during World War II published in thousands of magazines. These horrible pictures of suffering and sadness were published to show how Germany had committed atrocities, and in doing so protected the rights of those that died. In some cases we can violate the right of dignity, while at the same time prosecuting those that commit atrocities. mjd

Anonymous said...

I believe that suffering people have the right to decide whether or not their pictures are published. However, in my opinion pictures are very important so we connect with the reading and help these people. CPO.

Anonymous said...

Everyone has the right to decide if they want their picture published or not.If approved, this would make the readers more interested in the subject. There's nothing like pictures to show your point of view of a subject. DDB

Anonymous said...

Sometimes pictures can describe a writer’s work in ways that words cannot. - BRD

Anonymous said...

Gateways to Art by Thames & Hudson, page 114: "Lange chose specific moments to capture, and from those moments she further selected the one she felt the most effectively communicated what she though was much true. Lange's careful composition of her image of the family did not end with shooting her photographs. Further changes were made to the negative in the dark room. Lange's original shoot included the mother's hand holding onto the tent pole; Lange retouched the negative to crop out the hand. Because this photograph was meant to be an objective portrayal, the change was kept secret at the time, and has since been consider controversial".
Due to the fact that the picture was altered it's a betrayal to this mother's suffering, I also don't like the idea that we only see what the photographer "considers" we should see. Further more if photographers want to take someone's picture, they should always ask. After all without the person being there, there wouldn't be a picture to be taken. Pictures could be informative, but without disrespecting the circumstances or hardships that people go through.
YGR

Anonymous said...

A picture truly captures the moment and illustrates the individual's emotions. Even if you are able to paint a picture with just words it is still not enough. During the tragic incident of 9/11 people were seen jumping out the windows from the building. When you hear about it yes it's tragic, but when you see a picture of it (http://www.worldlawdirect.com/forum/attachments/off-topic-messages/457d1315863278-most-chilling-youtube-videos-9-11-jumpercomp2.jpg) that is when it truly hits you and you're lost for words. CMH

Anonymous said...

Living in America can feel like living in a bubble, oblivious to what may be happening around the world. Pictures bring awareness and relevance to certain issues. If no pictures are published and seen then it’s as if nothing is happening.

ARBA

Anonymous said...

I think that using photography in any publication must be with the consent of the person and their right to be published or not published. I also think that sometimes it depends on the time that is this living, as well as in 1930 Horace Bristol photos that reality to fiction for a few. The moment in which the human being is abused by society sometimes becomes timely display images to raise awareness.DAM

Anonymous said...

As a photographer that works with several non profits I have experienced this moral fork in the road several times. The only thing that I have concluded is that in each photo it is a case by case judgment that has to be made. Even with consent as a photographer and a human being I feel I have to be aware of the emotional state of those I photograph and that point when you have to say that's enough. I will however say that for some they have to see the truth of the situation in order to get them to take action. For example this famous photo taken during the Vietnam war http://media.npr.org/thisibelieve/kimphuc/kimphuc_ap_540-23c019bff4f854e0f64c9dcd1c036302bffa175d.jpg
Was highly and is still considered very controversial however it brought a splash in the face of reality to the people here back home in America of the severity of what was happening there. I believe in the end it's still a very thin line we must walk carefully and remember that for some the line may be thinner then others and respect there views as they should also respect ours. MAR III

Anonymous said...

Our human society should have to right to make a choice to have their pictures posted on any organization. Organizations are using pictures to send out message that are positive as well as negative. SM

Anonymous said...

I agree with NYH, it is up to the person that is suffering to decide if they want their picture taken. But, in some cases, showing a picture of an individual suffering can help solve whatever problems they are having. Showing pictures helps the viewer to see the pain and suffering that one goes through, so that the viewer know where their donation is going. A252

Anonymous said...

It is my personal opinion that in a case like this ethics depends on the consent of the individual. If a person agrees to have their picture taken and publicize, then they are also giving the consent for anyone else to see it. When the individual does not agree, whether he is ashamed or too shy, then the author or writer must respect.

SL

Anonymous said...

I understand that some organizations show certain images to gain sympathy. They are trying to raise money to help abandon children; however, one can say that they’re exploiting human suffering to support their cause. It could be in the best interest of the victims, nevertheless they portrait graphic photos producing pity.

GS

Anonymous said...

The line of when a photograph is violating human ethics never really existed. We are the people who choose to turn our heads away from reality. The real concern should be if the photographer has chosen a proper representation of the fact.

Anonymous said...

L.O. for above comment^^^

Anonymous said...

Photography is an art that captures moments and expressions to last a lifetime. With that being said ones dignity should be treated with self-respect and consent. -AD

Anonymous said...

You want to gain the empathy of others so that they support your cause. Pictures do help to promote a cause. A powerful picture can invoke raw and strong emotions. Emotions can cause you to take a stand for something. Pictures are powerful for effect, but not justified when they infringe on the rights of those in the pictures. SAM

Anonymous said...

Why we consider immoral companies that post a picture of someone to critique the situation of others? I believe is more important to look at the story behind the photograph. If these companies make good use of these images, I definitely agree with the idea of using these pictures to create awareness in the mind of others and collect funds from different resources in society.
Apple

Anonymous said...

How is it that we have reside in a world so obsessed with how we are perceived? If a person is financially less fortunate, is their main concern that they look poor, or that through a photograph or video they are able to get the assistance that they require. In my opinion, there are more pressing matters than your picture being taken.

Mercy

Anonymous said...

Using pictures is a great way to express an emotion, to give a face to the words that are written. But i do believe if the picture is being used for commercial reasons then the person does have a right to choose whether or not there face can be used. - GPC

Anonymous said...

I believe that a photo can be used to help advertise and promote a company. On the other hand a person should have the right to choose whether or not their photo is used. A picture could help, but it could also cause a lot of damage to a person or company
RJA

Anonymous said...

Photographs can be very invasive! A picture can portray something that is far from the truth. Sometimes, we do not have the choice what is done with our picture, due to social media and the internet. However, our history relies on photographs for what is believed to be the truth and feelings of a situation. I am torn, because I also think pictures tell the stories of our life! HL

Anonymous said...

8I do believe that every individual has rights, but for people to feel that a photograph of oneself through their tradegy and devastation is an invasion of privacy, well maybe their being close minded. It is unfortunate when there is tradegy, but through all the devastation there is a new beginning. It is a time for people to come together and help one another cope with loss, and look forward to the future of what may come. The ability to have a piece of visual memory, such as a photograph is a way for us to look back and remember the past. -SA

Anonymous said...

Sometimes a visual helps people understand the severity of a situation. Obviously, we should not invade the privacy of others nor degrade them. However, seeing the face of a victim helps to understand their pain and suffering. I feel this will bring out human compassion and will promote others to help. ANC

Anonymous said...

Just like mentioned before, in the blog post from "The Right to Ethical and Voluntary Choice"; everyone has the freedom to choose, and the freedom to take what they believe is an ethical action.Everyone has the right to decide whether they want they're picture published or not. A photo means a lot, a great memory, but it can also be manipulated in many ways. Like the famous saying "a picture is worth a thousand words".

AS

Anonymous said...

What a controversial confusing topic! The power of photography and pictures dictate history as we see it, but without the consent of the models being used, you may find yourself with a lawsuit. I feel that there should be more effort in the reform of privacy issues. BB

Anonymous said...

Well if I was in a really bad situation with a lot of other fellow Americans, and someone was trying to help us I wouldn't let them take my picture. Why? Well it's embarrassing. Americans want all the juice and information. They want everything exact. At least they should ask before doing. People need to see, to believe. That is the use of the picture. But I believe if a writer has a powerful writing technique then no pictures are necessary.
SMiLeY

Anonymous said...

Photographs can be perceived as either good or bad. There are so many critics, that you are bound to find one that will make a seemingly harmless looking photograph into an evil picture. Many people might not want their pictures taken because it might bring light to them, when they don't want to be in the spotlight. It should be up to the people who are in the photo that decide whether or not it gets released. ECZ

Anonymous said...

Capturing an era's way of living, thinking, and surviving are what create the classics we are brought up reading in school. A photo of myself would be a bit invading, however.. If another's portrayal is tugging at the strings of my ego then maybe there is some reflecting to be done. SV

Anonymous said...

The individual should have the right to decide whether or not they would like to be photographed. Nowadays, the people receiving the help do not need to be photographed, people may contract models or actors to pose as what they would like to portray. In my opinion pictures are very personal. JPA

Anonymous said...

I feel that a story that is to depict or portray a real life event should be done by stating truth and facts. Also if a picture of a person or persons will be used it should be authorized by that individual. - J.A.

Anonymous said...

I believe that pictures say one thousand words. Many of those who have been photographed have no clue about the photo/s. These people should be informed about the picture before they publish it. In my opinion, I think many people can misinterpret a picture by what is seen, instead of trying to understand the authors point to view. This makes people disagree and make their own assumptions about what the picture 'really' is. SVV

Annabel Guerra said...

I'm pretty sure that the photographer let's the person/people know that they will be using the said picture to be publish. If for a teacher to take pictures of a student, she need a sign paper for their parents, then I believe that whatever picture a person taken for a person to publish it should have a photo release form.

Anonymous said...

As a consumer and a member of the public images in text attract my attention and evoke more emotion than simply just the text. When someone reads an article even if it was a terrible experience in outstanding writing, they still won't get the reaction the writer might of wanted when asking for contributions to a charity. As the old saying goes, "seeing is believing". It might be disrespectful to photograph someone at their worst but how can a photographer and a writer be judged when they are just acting on their need to help.
AS

Anonymous said...

Demonstrating respect and dignity toward others is extremely important and necessary in our society. A photographer should always ask for permission, when taking and revealing a picture. Most of the time a photograph displays the true emotions and moment of the story being told. Which sometimes can not be expressed with words.
Samrog

Anonymous said...

Whether or not the person is being disrespected is up to the discretion of the person being photographed not anybody else. There are people that take pride in the fact that they can be used in anyway possible for the better while still there are others who are ashamed of the situation they're in and don't wish to be associated with it. Ultimately it is up to the one person being used to either view themselves as a hero/martyr or as a victim. - ID

John said...

Great post and informative. Finding the right airplane accident attorneys is very important when you need to deal with a law situation.

Anonymous said...

The image of suffering is such a strong and brutal way to express something. People viewed in these images are deprived and people look down at them. I believe shouldn't have to experience this depressing exposure unless they really desire to.
RV646

Anonymous said...

The image of suffering is such a strong and brutal way to express something. People viewed in these images are deprived and people look down at them. I believe(people)shouldn't have to experience this depressing exposure unless they really desire to.
RV646

Anonymous said...

I'm the type of person who likes to see things before I believe so a picture for me is believable. I do feel that individuals have the right to decide if they want their picture taken or not. I think that the organizations who actually have pictures of the people are making much more money than the organizations without pictures because "seeing is believing".

ADT

Anonymous said...

The right to respect and dignity. I think that as far as how? We should use photography to portray a suffering human or anything going on is by capturing moments that don't portray people as being made fun of. Afterwards, the photographer should ask permission to use this photo. I think photography can be a beautiful thing, regardless of how dark the moment captured can be.

DBP

Anonymous said...

If you're in a public place where you are lawfully present you have the right to photograph anything that's in plain view. The rules are different if you're on private property. In that case, people have the right to decide whether or not they choose to have any picture of them publicized. However, I do believe if someone is willingly having their picture taken from anyone, they shouldn't deny the fact that it could possibly be shown publicly.
MR