Photography has always played an important role in raising awareness of social injustice issues, including poverty, homelessness, and famine. However, media reports from the Indian state of Rajasthan claim that its government has laid out a rule for photographers: no further documenting food distribution to the poor.
The photographic documentation of crises has always been the subject of controversy. For example, though internet comment generally tends to approve of popular stunts uploaded to YouTube like handing out cash to the homeless, a skeptical minority can be put off by "charity selfies." Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot of Rajasthan seems to be taking such a minority position in his state's case, acting in the interests of privacy and respect for those suffering through poverty. With his state's poverty rate of 24.8%, such concern is at least understandable.
Gehlot is quoted as saying: "Photography during food and ration distribution has been banned in the state. This should not be made a medium of publicity."
This ban on photography even includes snapping mobile selfies while distributing food and supplies.
Even putting legal issues aside, the documentation of tragic events raises an ethical question about the photographer’s intent: Is the goal of the camera operator to ultimately help those in need or (perhaps even subconsciously) to exploit them? Could the outcome be both? And if so, is photography worth the potential embarrassment and injustice that can arise during sensitive events?
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Do you feel that it's appropriate to ban photography in times like these? Share your opinions in the comments section below, and please try to remain civil with others.