June 24, 2020
The Photo Bill of Rights is an extensive document created by a coalition of photography organizations, including the National Press Photographers Association, with the intent of improving the economic conditions for lens-based workers while taking concrete steps to eradicate the influences of racism, sexism and homophobia in our industry and to be more conscientious of the impact our work has on the people and communities we document across several unique disciplines of photography.
This initiative dovetails with our economic and advocacy priorities, our Code of Ethics and our belief that inclusive actions must take root in the NPPA and the broader visual journalism industry, and we are pleased by the overwhelmingly positive response.
We have heard some of our members express concern and confusion about the issue of dialogue with sources, which is found in the supplementary material in the Toolkit section of the Photo Bill of Rights website. The Toolkit offers resources for a variety of visual disciplines, not just journalists, as well as suggestions for how to have conversations about several issues, and language has been added to clarify this. Dialogue with those we photograph is a nuanced process. Many conflate the issue of legal consent or First Amendment rights with privacy rights and the issue of ethical consent when they are wholly unique.
Our Code of Ethics says: “Treat all subjects with respect and dignity. Give special consideration to vulnerable subjects and compassion to victims of crime or tragedy. Intrude on private moments of grief only when the public has an overriding and justifiable need to see.”
It also says: “While photographing subjects do not intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or influence events” and “Respect the integrity of the photographic moment.”
Several other clauses apply, but our entreaty to our visual journalism colleagues is this: Be good journalists. Use good judgment. Show concern for those you encounter who are vulnerable. Whenever possible, minimize harm. And if the situation warrants a discussion with someone you photograph, this framework may be something useful for you.
Regarding NPPA’s position on protecting and advancing our right to photograph and record matters of public concern, we stand on our decades-long record of advocacy. The conversation about changing the status quo is long overdue, and we support the idea of our community engaging in respectful dialogue with their peers without harassment over nuanced topics of ethics in our industry as per our code of ethics. We strongly encourage you to read the entirety of the bill and take in the other exceptional ideals espoused in this document.
National Press Photographers Association
Board of Directors