Stock Photography...Ethics...Where do you draw the line?

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by CanisMajor, Jan 25, 2010.

  1. CanisMajor

    CanisMajor TPF Noob!

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    A few months back my Grandmother passed away. At the funeral, numerous family photographs were taken including pictures of the coffin, flowers, pallbearers, etc... I was surprised that several weeks after this event I found that a member of my family posted some of the pictures, for sale, on a stock photography website (e.g. Shutterstock.com, Fotolia.com). The photos included only my family member (the one who posted the pictures for sale) and/or only the casket, flowers (there wasn't a violation of model consent or the like).

    I'll be honest, when I saw the pictures posted I thought it was distasteful and inappropriate and I immediately wondered: What would the photography community think? I recognize I am sensitive to this issue because, to me, these images were DEEPLY personal and were associated with emotional heartache.

    To escalate these feelings, a few weeks back, my other Grandmother passed away...double whammy. As before, while at the burial, my family member began taking thousands (only a slight exaggeration here) of pictures of the grave, casket, flowers, etc... I confronted this family member, assuming that these pictures would be posted for sale too, and asked: "Is this ethical? Is it OK to profit from your Grandmother's death?" My family member's reply was that "...these images were just another casket and flowers". I was then accused of calling this family member unethical and he is willing, at least for now, to throw away our relationship (i.e. won't take my phone calls, or talk to me so we can discuss and work out our differences together).

    I'm trying to remain open minded on this issue. Perhaps I was way off base with my comments; it was after all an emotional time for everyone in attendance that day.

    So I ask:

    1) Where would you draw the line? Just because one can make money selling images on a stock photography website, should they try to sell all of life’s moments, including tender, even sacred family moments?

    2) Was I wrong to confront my family member?

    Kind regards.

    -CanisMajor
     
  2. Dominantly

    Dominantly TPF Noob!

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    The family member would have probably eaten the camera if it was me in that situation. I would have been annoyed/creeped out if a family member was taking photos at one of those occasions, but if I had found out about the attempted profit, I would have been enraged.
    There are huge ethical issues here, and I do not believe that you were in the wrong whatsoever. There are certain things out there that are emotionally charged and one should tread on them lightly, this is one of them.

    If your family member has issues, it's their own doing; don't beat yourself up over it.
     
  3. TiaS

    TiaS TPF Noob!

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    You were not out of line to speak your mind. The fact that your family member got defensive shows that this person is not wanting to even think about if you have a point. I think that this person was very insensitive. I can totally see your point.
     
  4. For what it's worth, I think people are over-invested in their grief at times. It is just flowers and caskets, no one is really getting hurt. Is the person profiting off this? Yes... but he/she didn't cause the death for profit. What if the money was donated to a related charity? I don't think it would make a difference to the act, but it suddenly has a more "feel-good" vibe about it. I say let it go, wish him/her luck, and move on.
     
  5. jackieclayton

    jackieclayton TPF Noob!

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    wow, I am so sorry you have to deal with this, especially at a time of loss. It was very insensitive for your family member to do this... and it sounds like he took the funeral and burial as an opportunity for a photoshoot, rather than paying his respects. I couldn't imagine just taking pictures during my grandmother's burial... if i needed pictures, hire a photographer so you can use the time to say your goodbyes and pay your respects. Your grandmothers just passed away and everyone needs time to heal... i would be outraged and like I said, find it very insensitive. I don't think you were wrong to confront the family member and i'm sorry to hear he responded the way he did.

    hopefully in time he will realize that his actions deeply hurt you and other members in the family, and being respectful of those related to you and mending family relationships is way more important than a couple stock prints sold. At least in my opinion anyway.
     
  6. mom2eight

    mom2eight TPF Noob!

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    I don't know about Ethical but id sure call it SICK! I do not think you were wrong by confronting this person. He should be ashamed of himself for acting so insensitive.
     
  7. ChasK

    ChasK TPF Noob!

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    The line of people who profit from a death is long indeed. From coffin mfg's to greeting card companies to florists, just to mention a few, and that's not counting the ones who profit indirectly, such as the store that sells the sympathy card, freight companies that ship the goods and on and on.

    Nothing lies outside the scope of photography. If he were recording the funeral just for family and friends would that have been ok? Since you said "The photos included only my family member (the one who posted the pictures for sale) and/or only the casket, flowers (there wasn't a violation of model consent or the like)." Unless his actions at the funeral were out of line I don't think I would have been too concerned about it. On the other hand he should have been there to grieve not work.

    If some time in the future you were to pick up a sympathy card at your local drug store and see your loved ones coffin & flowers on a beautiful card meant to ease someone else's suffering. (and make a profit for the mfg) Would you be flattered by the memory of the beauty of her ceremony, or insulted and angry because your relative made a few bucks off of it?
     
  8. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Some interesting points coming out here and I suspect this is going to be one debate where personal views as well as background of the indevidual are going to come to the fore.

    Myself I would say that I can see both sides of the coin for using a camera at a funeral; on the one side it is like a wedding - a one time occasion where family and friends tend to come together in one place and you often meet people who you might not have met in a long time -- so on that score I can understand the desire to want to record at least a part of the service in that manner.
    However whilst a funeral has a very organised beginning to it - the end is often more open and there are less of those "you must get this shot" situations, plus in addition people are not so much inclined to say "Oh quick there is so and so overthere get a shot of them". Smiles can also be in somewhat of a short supply.

    So the job of the photographer is somewhat a lot harder once you move past the ceremony (though those shots could be all that is wanted or needed in the end).

    Add in to that the fact that photographs are something that we use to remember the past and deaths are not something that most western civilisations choose to want to remember on the whole.


    Then we come to the photographer themself - the lack of direction and of encouragement of the art could lead one to say that an outsider might not be best suited since they might miss people to shoot during the end of the event (ie after the formal aspects). However on the other hand a funeral is a formal time to grive and show your respect to the departed - can one truly do that if they are moving around and snapping away and asking people maybe to smile a little? Some people might manage this - some won't and in the end it would come down to the person and the family - as well possibly to the status of that person with regard to photography (a professional could be seen to just be being professional whilst an enthusiast could be seen to simply be enjoying the shoot).


    In the end I know I could not turn up to a funeral with my camera gear and shoot away - I know this for a fact having lost several relatives in recent times (heck I didn't even bring the camera home for the one day I was back from uni for the funeral). It didn't feel right to me to do such so I didn't.


    And at the end of it all we come to profit - well again all I can say is for myself and if I shot a funeral (which I already said I would not) for family I would not be sharing those images with the wider world for anything more than to share them alone. I certainly would not try to gain from them financially. If I wanted funeral type images (of the flowers and such) I would just head down to the funeral parlour or even a florists and set something up myself.
     
  9. Hardrock

    Hardrock TPF Noob!

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    :thumbup: Well said!
     
  10. ChasK

    ChasK TPF Noob!

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    Thank you, I know it was not much of an answer but I could have probably done better on an easier question, like something about politics or religion.
     
  11. CanisMajor

    CanisMajor TPF Noob!

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    Thank you for sharing your thoughts...Keep them coming.



    ChasK - I'm OK with industry making a buck or two on funeral services. They do, after all, fill a needed service niche. What I am opposed to is a particular family member making a business decision (i.e. posting images for sale) to sell images considered personal to others in the family.

    Since you like religion here's a thought from Jesus himself: "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine..." (St. Matthew 7:6)

    As Overread stated above the copacetic approach to filling one's portfolio with funeral fare is to march down to the funeral parlor with a random pile of flowers and caskets galore:
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2010
  12. ChasK

    ChasK TPF Noob!

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    I would be more concerned with the family members actions at the funeral rather the sale of the images later. Why would it be ethical and moral for a funeral director to make a profit or a florist and not a photographer? As long as the work conforms to the standards of the industry with respect to model releases. From what the OP said it might be doubtful that anyone could even identify the pictures later.
     

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