Capturing Community Images – Ethics and Ownership

8 June 2017
landscapes
Photo: Cath Traynor

Working with community representatives to capture images illustrating the issues related to ethics, consent processes and ownership.

Natural Justice has been engaging with the Indigenous Nama community in Khuboes, Richtersveld, South Africa on a suite of issues related to climate change, indigenous knowledge, intellectual property rights and academic research processes. Cath Traynor and international intern, Andrew Williamson visited Kuboes together with a professional photographer. Our objective was to work together with community representatives to capture images that will illustrate the issues we have been exploring together.

Inspired by on-going work with our research partners on ethics and socially-just research processes, we applied the learnings to inform our engagement on issues related to capturing images of the landscape and community. The idea had arisen through discussions with youth, we developed the concept, produced individual consent forms specifically for photographs that would include community members, and sought community-level consent from the traditional leader. We then worked with a community elder who advised on us locations and imagery and joined us for the duration. The framing is that the final photographs will be owned by the community and we request licence to use the images for specific purposes related to our joint areas of work.

The activity surfaced issues related to ethics, consent processes, ownership and use of images, different generational perspectives around photographs and privacy particularly in light of the ubiquity of cell phone cameras and use of social media platforms, and the possible burden of consent processes and practicalities. Through purposely engaging on these issues we are developing insights regards what implementation means in practice.

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