When it comes to filming & photographing, I always try and learn from the professionals. I recently discovered superstar photographer “Joey L”. Joey’s worked with some big names (The Jonas Brothers, Usher, NBC, FX Network, Warner Music, and the Salvation Army).
Joey also travels to developing countries and photographs and films those living in poverty. Recently, he uploaded a video on his trip to visit the The Mentawai in rural Indonesia (WARNING: NOT SAFE FOR WORK):
The reason this video is not safe for work is because it shows full frontal nudity of children. I’m not trying to hate on Joey. In his defense, this is probably nothing more than you’d find in National Geographic Magazine. I’m sure the intention was documenting – not pornography.
But, this raises a question, what are the ethics of filming and photographing the poor in the nude? Is filming for charitable purposes different than filming for documentary purposes? Are the standards different for those living in the West vs. those living in developing countries?
From what I can tell of Joey’s work, that seems to be the case. In this video, he blurs and blocks out nudity of himself and his assistant as they bathe in a river – but does not do the same for any of the naked locals in the same scene (WARNING: ALSO NOT SAFE FOR WORK):
For me, I come from a very different perspective. Even if families are itching and eager to be on camera – if they are nude, I say no. Or, at the very least, frame it to protect privacy. This helps because when I team up with Save the Children, I’m in line with their policies and practices.
But the fact is, no matter how much care & consideration one takes in filming and photography, there is always going to be someone out there who thinks you’re grossly violating the rights and disrespecting your subjects.
On-the-ground I know that my paranoia of not filming nudity seems to foster respect among those I film & photograph. It also stems from the fact that I share a cultural ancestry with most of the people I try and help.
It’s for that reason, I’m not going to change how I do things. But, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – especially if there are any professional photographers and filmmakers out there reading this.