“The ethics of using pictures of people, especially children who don't have the power to decide whether and how their image is used in the press is complex but they must be treated with sensitivity and dignity”…seeing this as a facebook friend’s status accompanied by a naked crying girl, running along with other children in a conflict situation struck a chord deep in me.
The issue of pictures being taken and published without consent especially with people who might not be able to challenge that action tends to keep getting a reaction from me. A colleague and I were discussing this topic and she mentioned a post that went viral of a fellow European who went to Africa as an aid worker but the person was all about taking selfies in the midst of 'suffering' Africans. That was certainly not the motive for this person being sent to Africa. In portraying the picture of suffering Africans, how about showing pictures also of the nice places where these selfie crazed people eat, live and hang out…pictures of those places should equally fill the internet, because in the midst of the suffering, these workers find places that remind them somewhat of home where they feel safe.
Not forgetting the fact that Africa is a CONTINENT and not a village or a country, the one part of Africa one aid worker might have seen could be completely different from the Africa another person knows. This is a subject for another day.
Still on the subject of the pictures…I was walking through a village with a friend who happened to be a foreigner, and he instinctively brought out his camera to take a picture of a scene; a woman carrying firewood on her head, a naked child walking along and another person farming. I stopped him. I asked a few questions…’what is the motive behind taking this picture?’ He looked quite puzzled then answered 'it’s how they live' and I said right, 'do you think they would like the fact that you put their way of living out there for the world to condemn or make mockery of?' I asked again, 'if this were your family, would you appreciate them being put out there for the public who has no clue about their everyday living, to comment and talk about? Especially your child, a naked child!' Besides, this is a remote place, a village, these people do not know any different. We did not even stay in the village, we were only passing through so we had no clue about anything. In addition, 'would this picture if shared not be glorifying the stereotype of all of Africa being rural?' We (including the foreigner) live in a city and the life we know is completely different from that which these villagers know but we live in the same country. He agreed with me and we continued our walk.
Now this could apply to so many foreigners who work abroad. The press does this mostly because it is their job to create a buzz. But if others who are not part of the press join them, where do we draw the line and reach into ourselves to draw on our humanity and sensitivity? Why do we have to feed the stereotypes that already exist? Is this in any way fun? Are there any ethics applicable to sharing images?
Photo credit: Google images