Photographer Ethics

November 19, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Some time ago, I made a trip to Eagle Ironworks to make some photographs. Specifically, of Pleasant Furnace. One aspect of the furnace that intrigued me was the geometric shapes and repeating pattern(s) of the support columns and timber beams. What really turned me off and ultimately kept me from photographing the structure was someone at some point in time defaced it. Nothing serious, mind you...just the year "2016" written in what appeared to be colorful chalk. While it was somewhat of a disappointment to see, and chalking (see what I did there?) it up to some random teenager, I accepted it as a minor annoyance, and moved on. However, the more and more I thought about it, the more irritated I got. Fast forward a few weeks, and while sifting though websites of other photographers I ran across an image where these same numbers and location was used while creating a portrait.

First and foremost, for those that do not know or may be unaware...since 1971, Curtin Village and Pleasant Furnace has been on the National Registry of Historic Places. Simply put, it is a historical site.

That being said, when would it be considered acceptable to deface (no matter how minor it may seem or appear) a historical site during the regular course of business? I take great pride in the fact I make every attempt to minimize my impact whenever I am out and about making photographs. In my opinion, I believe it to be completely unacceptable. I feel it is our responsibility not only as business owners, photographers, or citizens to leave our historical sites, natural areas, etc. in the same exact condition, if not better than we found them. In this particular case, there were/are many alternatives that could have been utilized other than drawing on a known historical site. For example, using pinup numbers that can be easily removed from the timbers afterward, or even using Photoshop, Paintshop, or MS Paint (if that's all you have) and place the numbers in the image itself. All this does is inconvenience a bunch of 1's and 0's.

Any rate, I'll climb off of my soapbox now. Keep in mind, it doesn't matter what we're photographing, it doesn't matter where we're photographing, it doesn't matter whether it's in a professional capacity or not. It is our responsibility to do the right thing, minimize our impact, and do what we can to ensure the preservation of our historical landmarks, sites, and nature areas for future generations to use and enjoy.


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