Friday, November 21, 2014

Your Moral Obligation Is To Your Subject

During my round at work I was thinking of the moral responsibility of a photographer to his subject. In the past the argument has been made to me to only photograph people or subjects that are for a better word photogenic. The idea that you should only shoot folks with big eyes and cragly faces, or wonderful lit subjects that includes fog and rain, seems so wrong.

I agree that those things mentioned can help your photograph and will no doubt create more interest and drama but the problem I have is the moral one. Should I refuse to shoot or ignore an important subject that does not live up to these photogenic standards? Or should I try to shoot all important subjects equally and make the most of what I have to work with.

When I am invited into the lives of my subjects they are giving me a gift. The person in the photograph deserves to be treated with respect and has earned the right to be photographed even if they do not have that strong face or are in the most beautiful light. I owe that person the chance to have their stories told. I of course will try to get nice light, I will try to shoot in rain or fog, get a great composition or whatever else helps. I need thou to try photograph all important subject matter regardless of its photogenic qualities.

The most important thing to remember is that the documentary photographer, the concerned photographer has a responsibility, they need to be actually CONCERNED.  It is not about making the most beautiful photographs it is about telling the story of that person who welcomed you into their life. The photog should put the subject first and work with what is available to make the best photo he/she can and tell the important story of that forgotten person as well as they can.

Concerned photography is not about making beautiful photographs of photogenic things. It is about allowing the viewer into the lives and experiences of your subject. It is about raising awareness and hopefully starting a conversation that leads toward positive change in that subjects life. Photographing all persons with important stories to tell is the moral obligation of the documentary photographer.