Ethical Image Policy for Mercy Branch Inc.:


Images (photos and videos) play an important role in helping us to raise awareness regarding the needs of our organization as well as bring life to the work that we do. However, the gathering of images can cause harm if it is not carried out to a high ethical standard. They can cause offense if they are intrusive, inaccurate or manipulated. The use of images can also be counter-productive if they are reproduced inappropriately.

Anybody gathering or using images for or on behalf of Mercy Branch Inc. should read the following guidelines and be in total agreement before carrying out their work:

As an organization that highly values human dignity, we must do our utmost to ensure we treat people with dignity and respect. We must provide clear information about why we want to take their image and explain that it is their right to refuse to participate. People should be comfortable with the process and happy for their images to be taken and used.

Ensuring that the people we take images of are truly giving us their consent is a problematic area and one with which people involved in NGO imagery are constantly grappling. Many people will agree to have their images taken without a full understanding of the way in which the images will be used.

People’s full understanding of what they are giving consent to is more important than obtaining written consent.

The following approaches should be taken:

We must explain how the images and stories that we collect will be used and should show examples to clarify this. It must be made clear that the images will be used widely and internationally. No promises about limiting usage can be made.
Requests for consent must be carried out in the local language by a translator.
Ensure parental/family consent is requested of minor children.

– Written or verbal consent

A true understanding of what individuals are consenting to is our primary concern. This should then be recorded either in writing or on film. We should be mindful that there are also many occasions where we work with people who are illiterate and their written consent would not necessarily mean informed consent. In these cases filmed consent is a better option.
In some circumstances written, rather than verbal consent is required. For example, if it is known in advance that the photograph is likely to be used in an exhibition or in the media, we need a written consent forms as news agencies in particular may ask for these.
As an organization which strives to uphold the values of respect, accountability and integrity we should endeavor to be a leader in this field. As such, we should consider and reflect on issues such as cultural sensitivity, how to avoid perpetuating negative stereotypes*, and being respectful of an individual’s privacy.

*Stereotypes: We do not want to perpetuate the stereotypes of people living in the developing world, but instead want to show a true and accurate account of the ways in which people live. This means we want to show people as dignified human beings not helpless objects of pity.

Images of children can be particularly emotive and as such we do realize that they can be crucial to raise awareness and funds for our work. However, working with children is a sensitive issue and extra care must therefore be taken when choosing images to capture and publish to ensure that the children featured in photographs and films are properly treated. Unless we have parental consent (consent as explained above) to do so, we will never publish an identifying photo or video with a minor child’s face in full view. We also will never publish a minor child’s full name without parental consent, rather, we will use an initial or nickname instead.

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