Homless Shelter wants Photographer with no Ethics?

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by unpopular, Jun 12, 2012.

  1. unpopular
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    unpopular Well-Known Member

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    So I found a volunteer position at a local shelter, I've actually seen this position advertised for some time and had considered it in the past. My wife kind of insisted that I reply, and so I did.

    In my letter I told them that I was willing to do it, but only if I represented the subjects as individuals, rather than using their image to represent their social status. In other words, I wasn't will to make Poverty Porn for them to exploit. A pretty simple request from an organization that is supposed to be helping people get off the streets.

    Two weeks later, no reply.

    Do you think I should push for this, or just assume I'm not the photographer for the job?
  2. gsgary
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    gsgary Well-Known Member

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    I would say they are wanting images that will make people put their hands in their pocket
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  3. fjrabon
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    fjrabon New Member

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    A) whoever read your letter probably has no idea what you were talking about. B) They just want pictures that will bring donations. They don't give a crap otherwise. C) whatever they interpreted your comments to mean, they probably just took them as you being difficult. They were probably just thinking "we just want somebody who is going to take the dang photos."
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  4. unpopular
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    unpopular Well-Known Member

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    ^^ ok. sure.

    but for crying out loud, it's unpaid work that has been advertised for over a year now!! if they want to be choosy, they should hire someone, but I'm not going to donate my time to a project I don't agree with.
  5. fjrabon
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    fjrabon New Member

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    I can tell you administrators in non-profits hate volunteers with demands more than anything else. Mostly because they think it makes their job harder. Whoever is reading your letter probably just thought "Jesus, I don't need to deal with and consider whether or not these pictures are representing these people as individuals or exploiting the nature of their social class, I don't even know what that means. I just want some pictures to put up, but heck if I'm dealing with this guy."

    Not saying that's right, but from knowing people who run NPO's, that's how they think about any volunteers who come with stipulations. Heck, they barely want to take donations with stipulations, if those stipulations make their job harder (or even if they think it possibly might).
  6. unpopular
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    unpopular Well-Known Member

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    Was I so wrong then? It seems to me that I should have the principle of least interest here.
  7. fjrabon
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    fjrabon New Member

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    No, by no means were you wrong. You stated what you believed. If they want you they'll let you know. Otherwise they'll probably wait until some college kid who 'like totally saw all these cool homeless pics' applies and they'll exploit the college kid and the homeless people in order to raise money.
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  8. DiskoJoe
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    DiskoJoe New Member

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    Did you actually go talk to anyone about what the position actually entailed before sending this message? or did you assume what it entailed?
  9. unpopular
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    unpopular Well-Known Member

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    Any time that you're taking photos of homeless people you can choose to photograph their economic status or themeselves as individuals. So no matter what was entailed, if it involved photographing homeless individuals and families (which according to the ad it was) I think my concerns were legitimate.
  10. IByte
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    IByte Well-Known Member

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    Rest assured your conscious is clean and will be able to sleep. You know what, to the hell with them. I say make dozen sandwiches, case of bottled water; then do your own photoshoot then pass the food out for a job well done.....boooyah!!
  11. unpopular
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    unpopular Well-Known Member

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    I've spoken with the homeless around here, and the particular shelter doesn't seem to be very good. One family was attending parenting classes which ended at 8:00 and often times ran over a little. By the time they packed up their three kids, it was often 8:30, and if they didn't get there before 9:00pm they risked eviction - for attending parenting classes!

    I've been weary of this job, and I think for good reason.
  12. tirediron
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    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member

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    I think your concerns are well-founded and I agree; walk away. I have a sneaking suspicion that perhaps this shelter either wants more, or is in danger of losing government (or other) grants which it uses for its oeprating buget, and someone felt that one of those "Christian Children's Fund" campaigns would help things out.
  13. Carny
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    Carny New Member

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    Tell me how these two photos would be different. I'm not really sure what you mean.
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  14. GooniesNeverSayDie11
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    GooniesNeverSayDie11 New Member

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    You probably got no response, as others have stated, because you showed potential for being difficult. Also, they are in the business of helping the needy. They need to illustrate what they do in order to get support from people. I am sorry, but showing me a bunch of pictures of people smiling, and having a grand ole time without any reference to economic status, doesn't scream to me "I need help." As a photographer, you should know the importance of story telling in your photos.
  15. unpopular
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    unpopular Well-Known Member

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    There is a difference between telling their story honestly, and there is poverty porn. Poverty porn says nothing at all about a person aside from the fact that they are homeless. It's those black and whit epictures of homeless people, taken from half a block away using a telephoto lens. The intention it to say "this is homelessness" without any consideration to who they are as people.

    It's like photographing a Mexican family for the sake of the fact that they are Mexican, or a Black family for the sake of the fact that they are Black - and seek to represent all Black people and all Mexicans through these images.

    If they were looking for "I need help" that's fine. But I am not going to use an individual to say "We need help". If the shelter cannot understand or appreciate this, then it shows a lack of compassion and understanding for the individuals they help. If they see me as problematic, then I'm OK with that.
  16. GooniesNeverSayDie11
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    GooniesNeverSayDie11 New Member

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    No offense, but it sounds like you are trying way too hard to create a dramatic issue out of something that really shouldn't be. Its one thing to dislike photographers who take pictures of the homeless for use as "street photography" or whatnot as being
    exploitative, but this is kind of silly when you are rallying against an institution that is trying to help these people.

    There is nothing wrong with capturing photos of people as they are, in order to illustrate what this shelter does. Its not like they are bringing in a bunch of people and dressing them up like hobos and then asking you to photoshop them so that they look like they are at deaths door. Honesty should always be something you strive for.

    However, While this shelter works hard to feed, clothe, and provide shelter to an ever growing group of needy human beings on a daily basis, you have the audacity to sit back and pretend that your righteousness is going to help the homeless in an sort of realistic sense.
    I think that your automatic assumption of exploitation and "porn" are incredibly presumptuous and misguided regardless of how hip and fun it is to frivolously use the word "porn" as a suffix. Sorry if that comes off as harsh. I don't mean to offend you, just being bluntly honest. Everyone likes to stand up for something, I just think that you are picking the wrong battle.
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2012
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  17. unpopular
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    unpopular Well-Known Member

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    Debasing and dehumanizing individuals to mere icons of a greater problem is never ethical. Judging from your initial reactions, I don't expect you to understand this because you likely don't see the homeless as individuals, but rather as a problem needing to be fixed.

    Furthermore, unless you have ever used a shelter yourself, you have no idea what these institutions are actually doing.
  18. IByte
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    IByte Well-Known Member

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    Best story of the homeless is when Diogenes of Sinope influenced Alexander the Great.
  19. Jaemie
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    Jaemie New Member

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    Next time give them a nice benign letter saying you're willing and enthusiastic, blah blah blah, and then, if they give you the job, do it your way.

    Asking for permission sucks. I rarely get anything done that way, so I don't.
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  20. unpopular
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    unpopular Well-Known Member

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    I agree, that is a much better approach. Get the foot in the door and feel them out.

    I'm just a little disappointed, you know, I'd think anyone who worked with the homeless would welcome attempts to humanize them. I'm much more disappointed in that than not getting the job.

    woot! spellcheck is back!

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