Is Photography Finally Embracing Ethics?

Is Photography Finally Embracing Ethics?

This month Getty Images, one of the largest picture agencies in the world, announced that it was tightening up its rules and would be banning images that have been Photoshopped to make models look substantially thinner or larger.

Its just the latest move thats seen sweeping regulation of ethics within the photography industry. Another instance was the protracted copyright case of the photographer and the monkey, which sounds like the start of a joke, but was actually a money-draining experience for the poor photographer who was weighed by by litigation.

The photography world has been accused in the past of lacking ethics. Image by Sergey Zolkin.

Yes, photography seems to finally be getting serious with ethics, but given that its 2017, isnt this well overdue? It could be argued the photography industry has been the Wild West of the ethics world for far too long. Gettys latest move seems to counter years and years of headlines warning of the health dangers of underweight models barely making it up and down the catwalk.

But it isnt just the world of fashion photography that has seen clashes between what is right, and what people may think makes a good picture. A number of wildlife photography contests have stirred up debate and winners have even been disqualified over setting up or baiting areas to entice or control their subjects to create anything but a natural image. While some may say this is just part of the game, its hard to argue it isnt very ethical. Even the very nature of Photoshopping an image is now fair game for discussion. Removing or adding objects in the frame is out of bounds and even boosting the saturation too much in the frame can result in photos being rejected from certain picture agencies.

The fashion world is now beginning to promote healthier images, thanks in part to the increased ethics in the photography industry. Image by Kris Atomic

But heres my opinion, and I realise not everybody will share it I think the burden of ethics should fall on the photographer to live up to, not for picture agencies or newspapers and magazines to set the agenda. Landscape photographers should know to leave the location exactly as they found it without spreading their trash around the scenic view. Fashion photographers should know not to encourage unhealthy body stereotypes by competing with each other to select the thinnest model from the casting and those using Photoshop should know not to go crazy with the Clone tool!

In fact I was lucky enough to interview Thomas Knoll, the man that invented Photoshop, and when I asked him how he felt about the ethics of Photoshop his answer helped form my opinion. He told me that Photoshop was just a tool; some people will use for good and some people will use it for evil.

Personally, I feel better about an image when I know its ethically sound. I would never photograph an unhealthy model, Id never set-up a nature shot and claim the subject was wild and Id never trash a landscape location just to capture a frame. However, some may always try and cheat with their photography or abuse the industry. But with ethics becoming more important to the industry, I think the tide has turned and these people are running out of runway. The result of caring more about ethics will be a safer industry where photographers and models are respected alike, photographers are rewarded with balanced fees and images give a true likeness of the subject - a direction worth fighting for!


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2017-10-11 03:00