Even though I enjoy the challenge of the 100 Strangers Project, I’ve wrestled with the ethical considerations.
I act with integrity. I approach each person with a sincere smile. I ask permission to take the portraits for this project and I feel comfortable requesting small favors such as “how about you stand along this wall in the shade?”
I respect the rights of each person to decline to be photographed.
There is certainly an argument to be made that it would be wise to keep each person’s identity totally anonymous. And yet there is a component to this project that extends beyond the act of taking a picture. I introduce myself and extend my hand . . . and this small act of courtesy is amazingly intimate. For just a second, our hands touch. I make eye contact. We share a smile, a laugh, or perhaps an awkward glance. Without exception, at least so far, when I say, “Hi, I’m Donna. It’s nice to meet you,” the subject has responded in kind, sharing their first name.
I can’t begin to explain how honored I feel for these interactions. That someone would place such trust in me makes me want to be my best self. I care for these portraits with the utmost respect and reverence. They are a gift. I know this.
To leave out the names might be safer, but it would certainly change the project. Making portraits, even of strangers, is an intimate act . . . and when anchored by genuine love, it’s incredibly affirming for both parties.
I feel a little more alive with each stranger I photograph.
I’ve done my best to educate myself by reading articles –
. . . on the ethical considerations of street photography.
. . . on commercial versus editorial photography.