Photography and Consent in Tourism in Global South

I was leading an Immersive Trails walking tour in Kolkata once with a group of foreign tourists. We have a very strict ethical policy about not taking photographs of people on the street without their informed consent, and we brief the walk participants about it. We explain at the beginning of every walk that we as walk leaders cannot provide consent on behalf of the people on the street. While we can help the participants to communicate with them, the actual consent has to come from them.

One of the participants in the group had ignored the instructions and was clicking a photograph of an old man filling up his bucket from a streetside public tap. At first, the man was a bit confused and then a little angry. He finally said (in Hindi), “I am just an old man filling my bucket. What is there to take a photo of me? Aren’t there old people in your country going about their work?”

It was really succinctly put & is exactly why we insist on asking for informed consent. I was so happy that he said it. It was a powerful lesson too because we tend to assume that people on the streets in a “Third World” setting are often voiceless spectacles.

Published by

Tathagata Neogi

Dr Tathagata Neogi is the Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Leader of Immersive Trails, a purpose-driven company based out of Kolkata, India that converts ethical, in-depth research into immersive experiences. Tathagata is a vocal advocate of empathic, ethical, community focused business practices.

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