These volunteers are participating through an exchange program with their university. Last week, their teacher discussed with them their feelings towards our social networks and our way of communicating especially through photos and videos. The question of morality was then put forward, more particularly that of ethics. How can we communicate effectively without just highlighting the volunteer experience and ignoring the community? How do we make sure not to slide towards humanitarian tourism? How do we share photos while respecting the populations helped?
At first the students were hesitant about sharing any photos, they explained to us that there were many volunteers in the United States who carried out his missions only for their own social media, and used selfies to show that they are supposedly "good people". This is where the issue of ethics comes in. Samuel explained that we at Voluntario Global push the volunteers of the association to take photos but only if they have a meaning for them, if they represent a relationship with a person of the mission, a moment that they appreciated, where there was an exchange and not take a picture without background. The idea when we share is to show what we are doing to grow the community of Voluntario Global to help more and more local people.
What is ethical photography?
At Voluntario Global we believe that ethical photography is a reflection of a real understanding, and taken in a respectful way with the permission of the people who are in the photo. Rather than reinforcing stereotypes about cultures, ethical photography works with the people who are in the photograph, to share real experiences. In this way these photos go deeper than just looking good, instead capturing a moment of a larger story.
How can I achieve ethical photographs?
The key to taking ethical photographs is in communication and context. Spending time with people and getting to know them, and asking if they are ok to be in a photo with you is as fine here as it is back home. A good way to understand this is by asking yourself “would I take and share this photo if I was at home?” If the answer is yes, then it shouldn’t be any different here. Ethical photos also don’t have to be always of people, taking an image of a work of art given to you by one of the children in the kindergarten you work in can be just as effective at showing your experience.
What is Voluntario Global’s “Ethical Photography Campaign?”
We are currently asking our volunteers to send us their favourite piece of ethical photography from their experience so far, accompanied by a short text about it. We are using these on our social media with the hashtag #ethicalphotography. In this way we hope to share real experiences of volunteers with the world, and engage in a broader conversation about this type of photography. We also encourage you to join us in this – and help us overcome damaging stereotypes!