The decision to print the image of the younger Syrian brother who drowned whilst his family were attempting to get to Greece became a focal point increasing debate about the migration issue but also about use of the photo.

This isn’t a post about that photo, however I’ll watch that debate with interest as it will no doubt be compared to Nick Ut’s Napalm girl and the image of the Iraqi soldier from the Gulf war. Both images had significant potential to change public opinion if published; which they were.

This is relevant because I’d just launched a photoblog about people watching, following a recent realisation that I’ve moved from seeing where I go not so much in terms of places but more in terms of how people interact with those places.

I’d been considering the ethics of capturing and sharing images of people in public places. There’s a helpful post here explaining the considerations better than I could. In summary having permission is one thing but it being the right thing is another and especially when you title the image or publish it with a comment on social media which could put a different slant on it.

I work in a creative industry and we need to use images of people on a regular basis. We need permission from the people involved to use them in our work. At any events where we intend using photography or video, we always explain and if anyone isn’t comfortable they can make themselves known and we ensure they are not captured. Ensuring we have the correct permissions for various future uses can also be tricky but not unsurmountable.

As most folk nowadays have significant photographic and publishing equipment of their own in the form of smart phones, this adds to the permissions and currency debate both as opportunity and risk.

There are times we find a perfect image from our library but don’t have permission for a particular use. That’s life, it can be frustrating but the image can’t be used. Sometimes we get requests from clients who think we can just produce an image out of nothing.

So to understand the ethical issue more, the non-work related challenge I set myself with the people watching photoblog was to explore the implications of first capturing images that told a story of a public interaction with a place or event and then see if it was possible to publish it without changing the context and how I would feel about it. Also learning that will be useful for work too; personal/professional.

There are some images in the collection that I was much less comfortable with sharing than others. They capture people exactly as they were interacting with their surroundings. Adding a title may be doing them a dis-service. Go see and you decide!

One of them is also the title image in this post. On the off chance you think the lad was drunk – he wasn’t, it was 40 degrees and his family were in the shop next door taking ages buying holiday souvenirs. Yes – that boring! but just shows how first impressions might be wrong.