Our ethics statement: behind the scenes

Last week we published our first ethics statement. A first and not a final version, because in the statement we also pledge to review its contents annually. This statement has been a long time coming...

We exemplified our renewed dedication in the EPOTY22 edition as well, when we welcomed another first: the introduction of the ethics panel – and we are pleased to say this format will return in the 2023 edition. The feedback and input of the expert professionals on the panel was extremely valuable in further growing our understanding of and appreciation for the role that ethics play in the world of photography, and our ethics statement is another way of codifying this into our processes.

In the interest of transparency and openness and to foster further curiosity (both are included in our guiding principles), we wanted to share how our specific ethics statement came to be. This article serves as a non-exhaustive collection of resources that helped shape the path we took for our research, brainstorming, tweaks and edits, and questions back and forth. It’s intended for anyone who is curious to find out more about this world!

Ethics statements & codes of ethics

    • We are not the first photography competition to publish a code of ethics, and the one shared by World Press Photo was a highly relevant point of reference when we worked on our own statement.
    • FairPicture’s Code of Conduct is short and extremely to the point, and a masterclass in how to drill down to the core essentials
    • FemLens’ mission statement was especially helpful in teasing out how we can question our guiding principles to make them actionable
    • The National Press Photographers Association’s Code of Ethics and the Associated Press’ news values and principles pushed us to think more critically about the role of ethics in the specific contexts of documentary photography and photojournalism
    • PhotoVoice is a UK based non-profit organisation that works to build a world in which everybody has the opportunity to represent themselves and tell their own story. To support this mission, they published a statement of ethical practice
    • Photographers Without Borders are an inspiration to EPOTY’s outlook, as a global community of storytellers protecting land and water through ethical and decolonized storytelling. Their code of ethics honours all forms of life they might come into contact with

Other ethics resources

    • An easy one to kick off with here is the Photography Ethics Centre’s hub of resources, but most especially this conversation with Savannah Dodd, Sarah Waiswa, and Liz Hingley hosted by AmberSide
    • The Dóchas Guide to Ethical Communications is an in-depth report, but as a quick introduction it provides a topline checklist of questions anyone can ask themselves before they decide whether to publish a photo
    • The Ethical Journalism Network is a community of strong reputation and high calibre, with the mission to strengthen the craft of journalism and promote high ethical standards in media. We were lucky enough to have Aidan White, its founder and honorary president, join our inaugural ethics panel last year.
    • Medium’s 2018 series of Truth-Telling Stories led us to another member of the same panel: Shaminder Dulai contributed an article about unexamined bias – but the whole series is well worth a read
    • The Ethical Storytelling website and community really says it all in the name, with its work focusing on how storytellers (in all mediums) can responsibly steward other people’s stories
    • The VII Foundation (combined with the VII Academy and VII Insider) is a vast library of resources on work in photojournalism, in line with its mission to transform visual journalism by empowering new voices and creating stories that advocate change. While not always explicitly about practical ethics, this perspective is embedded in everything they do
    • Women Photograph takes a slightly different approach in the championing of people telling their own stories: their mission is to shift the makeup of the photojournalism community and ensure that our industry’s chief storytellers are as diverse as the communities they hope to represent.
    • The Authority Collective is active in a similar space as Women Photograph, with special emphasis on opportunities for women, non-binary, and gender expansive people of colour working in the photography, film and VR / AR industries.

You’ll probably have noticed that each organisation and community has its own specific needs and concerns around ethics in visual storytelling. If you’re interested in working up an ethics code of your own (as an individual or for your organisation), we encourage you to start with reviewing the steps suggested in the Photography Ethics Centre’s Statement of Ethics Campaign.


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