An Ethical Dilemma
Last week one of our website visitors submitted a truly striking photo for possible publication in our Contributor’s Gallery. The image that Enrique, our Peruvian visitor, emailed us portrayed a beautiful Peruvian child who looked about three years old. He noted in his message that the picture was taken in a small mountainous village in the northern part of his country, about 4,000 meters above sea level.
We were floored. Of the hundreds of visitor photo submissions we’ve received since FreePhotoCourse.com went online, this is by far the best one, without a doubt. It would clearly win the best image of the year, hands-down, no contest!
We’d love to show you Enrique’s beautiful photograph; heck, we’d like to use it as an anchor photo to support a new how-to article about travel photography. The image is in all respects perfect. It is definitely National Geographic front page caliber, in all aspects of quality related to technical, composition and content.
The little boy portrayed in this image is absolutely adorable. His huge brown eyes seem to look deep inside your soul and they speak of a cautious curiosity. The boy’s beautiful warm skin tone contrasts pleasingly against his slate blue colored hat, ivory sweater and dark coat, all of which appear to be hand-made from local llama or alpaca wool.
The shaded location allowed the natural light to fall gently upon most of the boy’s face, his right cheek defined more sharply by a bit of sunlight. Short depth of field blurs an outside wall in the background, creating a beautiful bokeh in which the viewer can barely discern a patche where a large piece of paint has peeled off.
Beyond all of this attention to photographic detail, the boy’s eyes are the winner here. The honesty and innocence are exquisite.
So, do we go ahead and post the picture?
First we consider the legal. We always ask for a model or parental consent release if there is a recognizable subject in the photo. It isn’t legally necessary for our purposes, but we like to have it in any event. The photo in question did not have the accompanying release. Having said that, photos in our Contributor’s Gallery are not commercial in nature, in that we don’t use these images to sell, associate with or endorse any product or service. We also do not sell these Contributor’s Gallery images to anyone. Our gallery is merely a way for our visitors to have their best photographic work celebrated and displayed.
With these facts in mind and since the image was photographed in a public place, we are as reasonably entitled to post it in a free gallery, as would be Flickr, Photobucket and a multitude of other free photo viewing sites. (Hint – search for "Peru Child" in Flickr; you’ll find over 16,000 results and it is unlikely any of those photographers had a release.)
So, even though we’re reasonably entitled to publish it, why did we decide against posting Enrique’s remarkable photograph?
In a word, ethics.
As we discussed what to do, one of the members of our submissions team said something that left everyone speechless. She said, "Fine, so it’s legal. But just humor me for a minute. Imagine that you were at a local outdoor market with your three year old child. A tourist happens to think your child has an interesting ‘look’ and takes his picture. The next thing you know, that picture has won a contest and is posted on a photography website that gets visitors from over fifty different countries every day. So just how comfortable would you feel as a parent if that happened?"
She made an excellent point and we all understood.
You see, what we’ve come to realize through this experience is that it really doesn’t matter whether a child is in a remote village way up a mountain in a far-off country or in the park a block from where you live; the child should have the right to his or her privacy in a way that surpasses specific legal rights. And parents deserve to have a say in what happens with images of their own children.
This is the reason we decided not to publish this picture. In the end, we’re happy with our decision, despite how much we really wanted to let our visitors appreciate Enrique’s photo work.
p.s. We did send Enrique an email to recognize and congratulate him for his excellent photography. We also mentioned that we’d be thrilled to publish his picture if he were able to get a parent release to us. Let’s hope that happens!
Not Another Rainy Day? Argghh!!
You've got to be kidding! One of our photo contributors and writers, Steve Kristof, just returned from a sunny vacation to find himself mired in clouds, rain, clouds, rain... you know the drill. Problem is that he was really counting on some nice bright light and clear weather to do some landscape work he had been hoping to finish.
Well, you know how the old saying goes; "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!"
And that's exactly what he did. Talk about making lemonade out of lemons. Steve, along with some other contributing photographers, shot some beautiful abstract photo art using what we usually regard as our photographic nemesis - rainfall.
The article is a gem, because it explains very specifically how to use rain, puddles, reflections and light to your advantage in order to create really stunning pictures. As well, we've included several high res pics of raindrops, puddles, reflections, rainy cityscapes, rain-speckled leaves, moisture dotted spider webs and more.
Enjoy our newest 2-part article on How to Use Rainfall, Puddles, Reflections and Light to Create Stunning Pictures!
In the meantime, we'll continue working on new articles, lessons, free pictures and wallpapers, and more. By the way, have you checked-out our Photography Forum, the Aperture Lounge? Why not visit? Like all of our features on FreePhotoCourse.com, it's free and registration is not required. Have a photography question to ask or insight to share? Why not get in on the ground floor of this new forum!
Look, Then Look Again
One of our contributors recently shot some really sweet pictures at an outdoor festival. As he explained, he and his wife got a little overwhelmed by the mid-day 97 degree torment from this summer’s heat wave, so they took a break and sat down on a grassy hill to sip some cold lemonade they purchased from a stand.
A good photographer always checks-out what has been shot before leaving the event, so in like fashion, he and his wife – our resident newlyweds - began looking through the hundreds of shots on the back of his camera.
Don’t forget that a good photographer also keeps one’s eyes open and scans one’s surroundings repeatedly, because both content opportunities and personal perceptions do change and can change frequently. That’s where his wife – a self-admitted photography simpleton – had a big breakthrough! While casually scanning his pix, she looked away for an instant and caught a really fantastic photographic opportunity.
What she noticed that her self-admitted photography expert did not, was a couple sitting on the grass about twenty yards away, with their backs to both of them. What first caught her eye was the fact that they were wearing matching Detroit Tigers t-shirts. She thought that was cute. And then she looked again.
What she saw the second time was the Tigers tattoo on her foot. Whether it was permanent or not didn’t matter. It was a unique place for a personal expression of team loyalty and the young woman’s attractive bare foot looked really cool in the long grass.
As he explained, she said to him, “Let me have the camera for a minute.” He thought that she wanted to take a closer look at one of his masterpieces. Instead, he was taken aback when she handled the cam like a pro, zoomed into what he had not noticed and then pressed the shutter to produce her own masterpiece!
Now, a few days later, the image has been printed at 16 x 20, professionally framed and is hanging in the couple’s sports and entertainment room. It looks fantastic and is a truly unique and artistic addition to the other prints and posters in the same room that have a rather mass-produced feel to them. This one’s in a different class.
By the way, she now considers herself a "photo opportunist" and that's a good thin to be if you're a photographer. Oh...and yes, they are both Tiger's fans!
New Photo to Check Out! Tropical Storm Conson over Phillipines
We just received a stunning new photo from one of our readers by the name of Mar dela Cruz. The image depicts a rapidly changing sky as Tropical Storm Conson moves in over Manila, Phillipines on July 12.
Check it out in our Contributor's Gallery.
What we really like about this image is the wide latitude between brights and darks as shown in the various clouds. Don't miss the rainbow streaks in the photo as well...very interesting!
A Disturbing Lack of Permanence in All Things Digital...
Have you given any thought to the relationship between digital technology and the ever-expanding notion that our society not only lives in - but even desires - a throw-away culture? O.K., perhaps "throw-away" is too political a term to use, insofar as it may invoke feelings of politically-incorrect waste and environmental harm.
But the concept of a throw-away society really has more to do with the impermanance of all things that such a society holds dear and true. What does this have to do with digital technology? As it turns out, a great deal.
Here's how it works. When you stop and think about it, everything that we do in life, our world and even the revolution of our solar system is, in fact, temporary. We all know it - at least at some level. Whether we are talking about life itself, a mortar and brick building or a political empire, we realize that nothing lasts forever. Human beings have dealt with this irrefutable truth since we became self-aware. That's a huge reason we like to build varying degrees of semi-permanence into our lives.
A venerable old cement edifice with wrought-iron fences around it makes us feel like we belong because IT has belonged for so long - far more than a cheap stucco-smeared strip-mall building that goes up and comes down at the whim of an investor. We do things to our homes that bring a welcome sense of permanence. These physical adornments help to define spaces within the context of our own personality and help make a house a home.
So what does this have to do with photography? Plenty. Who still "prints" photographs? More and more people are merely storing their binary "ones and zeros" on various forms of digital media storage. Some even go so far as to organize, classify and back-up their precious photo memories and compositions onto alternative drives.
Store and display your images on a digital frame, computer monitor or DVD slideshow? Great gizmos, cool toys and high-tech ways to display images, but it is all so temporary. Wait three to seven seconds and the image is gone, replaced by yet another randomly selected scene. Yes, the original image will eventually come back, but when it does, it will, once again, last for just seconds.
Do you see what's happening here? Tangible, old-fashioned, printed photographs held in frames not only continue to appear for years upon years (as opposed to mere seconds); they also feed the human soul. Prints hung on walls or placed on countertops define our spaces and do so in a far less temporary way than do digital displays.
It's not just about printing photographs. It's also about the race to trade-up. Ask any photographer older than 35 or 40 and they will tell you how their traditional 35mm SLR or medium format film camera was a one-stop deal. Once you reached that pinnacle - one where your photo equipment matched your photographic potential - you could stop there.
Now our purchase decisions regarding any digital camera are framed within a background knowledge that the equipment will be outshone by a newer and more powerful model in just a few short years.
What to do?
Print and hang more of your photos. Print your works into coffee table photo books and display them proudly for friends and family to see. Find different ways to incorporate photographs into other physical art forms.
It's a start! These practices will not solve the digital impermanence problem, but they will help shift perspective in a very primal and positive way!
What do you think?
Street Photography and Unexpected Reactions
One of our regular editorial/photo contributors does Urban or "Street" photography for a (sort-of) living (ie. he makes some $ off it by using his street photography slideshows in live and online exhibitions which, in-turn, draws more people to his more profitable work). Yesterday, he shared a story that made me wonder about just how safe this aspect of his occupation has become.
First of all, let me set the record straight - his street photography work is amazing! Candid, authentic, gritty and rich in expression. If everyone on the earth disappeared in an instant and a million years later an alien landed on this orb and happened upon his work, it would provide a very vivid and heartfelt representation of humanity.
Back to his experience...
This particular pair of shoppers strolling along the boulevard seemed oblivious to the photog, along with just about everyone else. These days, most people in busy urban environments either don't notice or just don't care about people taking pictures of other people on busy street corners. There are just too many cameras, cell phones, i-devices, etc., everywhere you look and chances are that the busier the "everyday America" location you're in, the more likely it is that your mug is part of the binary ones and zeros on complete strangers' memory cards.
But this day was different. The pair of shoppers mentioned earlier suddenly became very much aware of the photographer's existence and seemed more than just annoyed that their picture had been snapped. Their response was quite unexpected. This street photographer has rather thick skin and is quite accustomed to the odd person asking what he's doing or occasionally explaining that they'd rather he not do anything with their image which, of course, he honors. Usually, when he explains why he does street photography and how it preserves important moments in time from a cultural perspective, people warm-up to the idea.
Not this couple. No, in fact, they confronted him very rudely and agressively, firmly believing that he was breaking the law and demanding loudly that he delete their pictures. He explained that what he was doing was very much legal in the U.S., in Canada, in Germany (he went on...) and that when someone is in a busy public area, they necessarily lose a certain degree of their right to their privacy.
The couple persisted, yelling at the photographer in a threatening manner. (Many of the things we take for granted in the free world are not universal and visitors unaccustomed with our way of life may be quite unnerved by it all.) Had this couple simply asked politely if he was taking their picture he would have explained what he was doing and if they were uncomfortable, he would have deleted their images. Didn't happen that way.
But here's an interesting thought. Maybe, just maybe, another street photographer caught the entire confrontation on his or her camera! Wouldn't that be a slice of urban life (and a bit of karma too)?!!
Moral of this story? Lighten-up! There are camera lenses everywhere you look and even more in places you don't. Just because someone's pointing a camera in your direction doesn't mean you are even in the frame (have you ever heard of a zoom lens??). If your picture is taken in a busy place, be honored that you have become part of a very small attempt to preserve a moment of time of the cultural landscape that is our society.
A bit preachy? Oh well, so be it!
Murphy's Law...Photography Style
What a beautiful morning it was - talk about a photo opp!
On my way to work this morning, I just had to pull-over for a unexpected, yet, delightful photo opportunity. The fog that I had just been cursing was beginning to break and the rising sun was just starting to peek through.
I was near a stand of trees that went deep into some local woods and was facing east, toward the rising sun. The view was nothing short of SPECTACULAR! I've seen photos like this before but never encountered the scene myself; the trees standing strong and stately almost as if protecting the sun as it's rays reach out beyond those trees, the fog creating fantastically wide shafts of light and all three elements coming together beautifully.
So I pull-over to the side of the road (there's in fact a little bare area beyond the shoulder just big enough for one car to fit - almost beckoning me to do this). Get out and open the back door and...BLAMO...I've been hit!
No, not with some farmer's bird shot; instead, with the realization that I did not pack my camera! Can you believe it!?? I can.
Disregarding my correct instinct, I turned back toward home, got my camera and - you guessed it - fog was gone, sun was too high, opportunity lost.
Maybe next time. (And maybe next time I won't be late for work either...)
Perspective on Photography is FreePhotoCourse.com's official Blog. This is where you can find updates, stories, news, links to photo "finds" and more from FreePhotoCourse's contributing photographers and writers.