Rights of Subjects in Documentary work

Initiated by our Tutor we contemplated the rights of the subjects in the plagiarism photographs and whether the model release form from the original photographer/artist legally cover the second appropriation of the image?

There was also a sense of discomfort that the rights of the model/subjects are not being considered in both these cases. Especially when in both these cases their include people from the BAME* community.  

I could not agree more. the terms of the release form should apply. Especially when it comes to documentary work where you have the opportunity to engage with people. I have done some street photography in the past where  I did not ask permission to photograph the people. There is no law prohibiting me from doing it in South Africa. However, for my current project work I feel ethically challenged to ask verbal permission to photograph people and explain why I am doing it.  I am guided by David Goldblatt’s approach which allows me to engage with my subjects. This becomes a very personal and life-changing exercise for me.  But, in some cases, under certain circumstances, I need to take the photograph first. In those events, I will ask permission to use the photograph and I will delete the photograph if they disapprove. This process allows me to engage them in conversation and record their story and become less of a Flaneur. I am contemplating, where possible, returning to some of my subjects and give them a photograph and may consider getting them to sign a release in turn if I intend exhibiting it in the future.

The rights of the people being photograph blur a bit in the case of journalism were getting the subjects to sign off is near impossible as it gets to photographing riots and protests.  That is probably why David Goldblatt generally avoided doing it or using those photographs in his exhibitions.

This should explain why I was so active in this forum discussion. I am personally experiencing the threat of my work to be abused in the same way.

* BAME (Black. Asian and Minority Ethnic).


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