Day one of any good Buddhism course would probably mention the five precepts: a list of guidelines to help us stay on the ethical straight and narrow.
Second only to not killing is not taking that which is not given…..This poses a big dilemma for me as a “mindful” photographer.
When we squeeze the shutter to capture an unmissable (aren’t they always?) candid picture, are we taking something away from the subject? Or can we justify our action with the literal fact that “no one owns the light”? After all no one believes a camera steals your soul any more do they?
I have to admit that I’m a naughty boy and have in the past walked straight into a person’s personal space, held up my camera and taken a shot. Mostly I am so fast that I’m not even noticed. My heart races when I’ve done it, and I’m never sure if I’m making really bad karma for myself, but it can make great pictures.
Here is one of those walk by shootings –
I spotted the subject in a crowded street; a space opened up behind her at just the right moment and I got the shot. She had no idea that she’d been photographed. Was that ethically right? Is it right for me to publish her picture? It’s all legal, but the morals seem blurry.
The Buddha said that the intention behind an action is very important.
I took the photograph because I thought she looked beautiful and unique and I wanted to share the moment that she was a part of. To me that seems like an act of respect.
I think the Buddha gets it right. No photographer goes out with the intention of making people look bad (if you do then stop it!). We want to spread something of how we see the world and if we are seeing with respectful eyes and trying to wake people up to the world around them then surely that can’t be bad.
What do you think?By the way, the Five Precepts are: Not killing Not taking that which is not given Not lying Refraining from sexual misconduct Not taking substances that cloud the mind
Text and photograph © all right reserved Miles Pilling