Point and Shoot: Ethical Photography Abroad

Following the advent of digital cameras and smart phones, every person has the potential to become a photographer.  With this potential, it becomes especially important to learn how to take photographs ethically.

The central characters in the ethical photography debate are professional street photographers.  They are artists who take photos of subjects on the street, sometimes without the subject’s knowledge or consent.  Some people claim that this type of photography is protected by freedom of expression; others argue that by entering into public space, people automatically give their consent to be photographed.  In America, consent is not legally required for photographs in public spaces.  Others consider taking such photographs as an invasion of their privacy, with the potential for exploitation or harm.  Some artists argue that the artistic benefits of taking spontaneous street photographs outweigh the risks of harm.  To see two different approaches to street photography, compare and contrast the works of Erik Kim and Brandon Stanton.

Whether or not you consider yourself a street photographer, the ethical issues still apply to all of us.  When studying abroad, these issues can become especially sensitive, as you are a guest in your host country.  Here are some lessons from ethical street photography that you can apply to your study abroad experience.

1. Identify your photographic goals.

Street photographers have varying goals – whether to anonymously capture people’s faces or to have them pose for a spontaneous portrait.  This helps them decide on a photographic method that works best for them.  Your photographic goals may be as simple as recording memories for friends and family, or as complex as building a photography portfolio.

2. Ask for permission. 

Whatever your photographic goals are, we recommend that you ask permission before taking someone’s photo.  In a foreign country, it is less likely that your photography will go unnoticed and people may take offense.  Asking for permission before photographing a person is simply the polite action to take as a guest in your subject’s country.

While it takes time and can be awkward, asking for permission can turn your simple photograph into an opportunity for cultural exchange.  Try learning how to say “Can I take your photo?” in the host country’s language.  At a minimum, use gestures and sign language to seek consent.  If they say no (remember this word or gesture may be different depending on the area!), respect their wishes.

3. Share your photos.

If you have a digital camera, always show your photo to your subject after you take it. You may be surprised by the positive reactions you can evoke! Consider exchanging contact information so you can provide a copy of the photograph to the subject(s) at a later point.  Remember – if the person asks you to delete the photo, you should do so immediately.

4. Respect the local laws. 

Always respect the rules at historic and religious sites, government buildings, museums, etc. If they say “no photography,” there is a reason, so don’t do it!

5. Tell the truth. 

A good photographer uses their camera to share information about the world, and your study abroad photos are part of this tradition.  You will be using your photos to represent your host country to people in America.  When taking photographs, you should try to capture an accurate representation of your host country.  Avoid taking photos that exploit or misrepresent the people of your host country.

Finally, come out from behind the lens!  At times, your camera can help you feel as though you are participating in a cultural activity without the risk of looking foolish or feeling uncomfortable.  However, some of those uncomfortable, embarrassing and goofy times are when you learn the most about yourself.

Get Published, Get Paid! Glimpse Correspondents Program Now Accepting Applications!

The Glimpse Correspondence Program is now taking applications for Spring 2011!
This program is for talented writers and photographers with a passion for storytelling and a knack for finding truly unique stories. The program is open to anyone between the ages of 18 and 36 who will be working, volunteering, or studying outside of their home country for at least 10 weeks. Correspondents receive the following benefits:
* $600 stipend
* Support from a team of professional editors
* Career training in writing and photography
* Guaranteed publication on Glimpse.org and The Matador Network
Look on the Glimpse website for more information!
If you are going to be studying, volunteering, or teaching abroad this fall, please consider applying for this wonderful opportunity!

Study Abroad Photo and Video Contest 2010!

The Office of Education Abroad is hosting a photo and video contest for study abroad returnees! The contest is open to all students who studied abroad during the academic year 2009-2010. There will be prizes for winners in each category and two Grand Prize winners!
Photo Contest
Submit a photograph, digital or scanned, to one of four categories.

People: Capture students interacting with local populations.

Places: Capture or include a landmark or landscape that is clearly identifiable as an international location.

Academic: Capture students in an academic setting during the study abroad.

Open Category: Miscellaneous photos that capture the spirit of the study abroad experience.
Video contest
Create a 1-3 minute YouTube video that showcases the cultural and academic aspects of your study abroad experience. Videos will be judged on creativity, video and audio appeal, and on how well your video showcases your study abroad program. Videos must be appropriate for all audiences and must not contain copyrighted music.
How to submit an entry:
Deadline for submissions is September 10, 2010.
Send all submissions to Abroad@vcu.edu.
In the body of the e-mail, please include your name, the name and location of your study abroad program and a short (no more than 500-word) description of your video or photo.
Video Contest: Title the subject of the e-mail for the as “2010 Video Contest Submission” and include the YouTube video link within the body of the email.
Photo Contest: All submissions must be in digital format with the title of the subject as “2010 Photo Contest Submission.” Save the files as follows:
“FirstName_LastNameCategoryTitle.jpg”
(For example, “Tom_CruiseAcademic.jpg”).
*By submitting your video link or photographic image to this contest, you are agreeing to let Virginia Commonwealth University and the Office of Education Abroad use your video on their website and for other publicity purposes including information sessions.

Join an on-assignment National Geographic photographer in Bhutan!

Worldnomads.com, National Geographic Channel & JoJo’s Adventures Bhutan are giving one exceptional individual the chance to go on assignment with renowned wildlife photographer Jason Edwards to The Kingdom of Bhutan – land of the Thunderdragon!
Bhutan_Poster.jpg
This your chance to photograph the deeply spiritual and mystical Bhutan as it slowly opens up to the modern world, maintaining a strong balance with its ancient traditions. Nestled in the Himalayas, bordering India and China, 65% of Bhutan is under forest cover, making its pristine ecology home to rare and endangered flora and fauna.
Your best photos will be published on the National Geographic Channel’s website where they will be viewed by thousands of travelers worldwide, offering you a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get your foot in the door of one of the most revered exploration organizations in the world!
Click here for details and to apply!
Applications close October 17, 2010. Good luck!

Get Published, Get Paid!

The Glimpse Correspondence Program is now taking applications for Fall 2010!
This program is for talented writers and photographers with a passion for storytelling and a knack for finding truly unique stories. The program is open to anyone between the ages of 18 and 36 who will be working, volunteering, or studying outside of their home country for at least 10 weeks. Correspondents receive the following benefits:
* $600 stipend
* Support from a team of professional editors
* Career training in writing and photography
* Guaranteed publication on Glimpse.org and The Matador Network
Look on the Glimpse website for more information!
If you are going to be studying, volunteering, or teaching abroad this fall, please consider applying for this wonderful opportunity!