Ethics for Photographers


“You gonna put that on Facebook?” he growled at me a couple weeks ago.

“I might,” I answered in a none-of-your-business tone of voice.

But actually it is his business.  Because he is the subject of the photo I’m taking.

It brings to call the question of journalistic ethics.  How responsible is a photographer to ask before she shoots?  How responsible is a blogger to seek permission before she includes?

My favorite photographic subjects (excluding, of course, my delicious little children) are the cowboys my husband and father work with.  To me, there is no picture more beautiful than that of cowboys on horses.  But a lot of the cowboys around here

a) are intensely private individuals

b) are untrusting of social media and the internet in general,

c) make fun of other cowboys who might be more likely to pose for a photo than to actually get any work done, and

d) just might be some of those people who would rather not be photographed.

Perhaps the real issue at hand is that I’ve never truly asked these guys if they mind if I take and post pictures.  At the heart of that problem is my own pride — pride learned from this same cowboy way of life I love.  You see, I’m not real accustomed to asking anybody if I can do anything.

And, of course, I’m afraid that if I ask before I shoot, I’ll get a No.  And these fellas and their horseback art just might be my claim to fame.  I simply won’t be able to accept a No, so I don’t even give ’em the chance to say it.

Therefore, I find myself trying to “sneak shot” them, zooming in from a long distance as they work or shooting from behind or pretending to take a picture of something else and, ultimately, feeling a little unsure if I’ve done the right thing after I’ve photographed them.

Doubtless I wear my heart on my sleeve.  And they are remarkably patient with me.  I’ve been here on the PV my whole life, longer than any of the employees except my dad, and I suppose they’ve all accepted that little Tami Jo and her antics are part of the package when you hire on to this outfit.  To this crew I’m like the little sister, the surrogate daughter, they never had and never wanted.  So they put up with me.

I took the included shot yesterday as they left my house after lunch.  They were headed back to the barn to get their horses and trail cows out to winter pasture.  I had been so busy slaving over the hot stove, I’d missed every opportunity to watch them working at the corrals.  I had absolutely no photos to show for the two days we’d just spent together and wouldn’t be seeing them again.  So I ran and got the camera and took this one from our front door.

“I’m gonna put this on Facebook, Joe!” I hollered.

It was hard for me to tell if he grinned or grimaced as the pickup bounced away.

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