A Charitable Encounter…. of the Third Kind
A few weeks ago, I wrote to a charity to ask if they would be happy for me to use their logo on my blog in order to help raise funds for them. I wanted to use a clear, visually effective button that would allow me to integrate charitable activity into one of the future areas of the site. Documentary photography and charities are of course natural bedfellows.
The charity concerned specialises in children affected by conflict and they came to mind when I wrote the post ‘Behind the Photo: Zmarak’, which describes the fate of a young boy in Kabul. I’d worked with this charity before several years ago and raised funds for them through the sale of photographs and I had expected it to be simple: use of their logo would help generate funds and so they would be quite happy for me to use it for the purposes described: a button for making donations. However, the discussion did not go as expected and here is the chain leading up to my final response.
I’m posting it all here because I think it’s an interesting exchange that touches upon core issues: perceptions of documentary photography and photojournalist, charity sector corporatism and brand management and the boundary between political correctness and human rights protection. I’d like to hear your views – I’ve been left with mixed feelings to say the least.
So here goes:
I am a documentary photographer and conducted a fundraising exhibition with XXXX several years ago. I’m putting together a photography blog and would like to use your logo for the purposes of linking to your homepage and donation page.
Can you please confirm that I have permission to do so?
Firstly, on behalf of everyone at XXXX we would like to thank you for your on-going support of our charity….As I am sure you will understand, our brand is very important to us, so it is our standard procedure to read through and check all websites, blogs, etc. before allowing them to use our logo. I hope this is ok for you…..
Sure, the site is at: www.thephotofundamentalist.com. It’s just commenced so bare bones only at this stage.
Thank you for your email……..
Unfortunately, I came across a few photos and one story that are not in accordance with our child protection policy, so I am afraid that we can’t let you use the XXXX logo on your blog.… I hope you understand that it is necessary for us to uphold our child protection policy not just in the programmes that we run, but also in our partnerships in the UK and abroad.
We would, of course, welcome any donations that you would like to make to us individually….
I have to say, I am a little surprised that XXXX wishes to dissociate itself from what amount to frank depictions of the situations that children face in Afghanistan, when they do not receive the support and care they deserve. Those situations are not of my creation, but presumably do relate to situations that you would like not to be occurring. And there’s no denying their occurrence.
Out of interest, which stories and pictures are you referring to as being in breach of your child protection policies?….
Clearly without the use of logos and visual aids it will not be possible for me to lend the long-term support I would like to…..I have to say, it is a shame and also surprising.
Thank you for your understanding …….
I discussed your photography blog with a few of my colleagues before we came to, something that was to us, a rather difficult decision. There is absolutely no denying that your blog highlights the very severe conditions that Afghani children are facing at the moment. It is commendable that you are bringing these issues out into the open and this will (hopefully) lead to greater awareness of the circumstances surrounding young people and adults in the country….
The photo that I was referring to is from your collection ‘The disorder of species’ and depicts a naked child leaning against an older man [Tom Comment: note that this image does not appear on my blog, but can be found here on an entirely separate website, HERE]
Our policy regarding the depiction of children on our own website, social media and publications is that any depiction of children- in words or in images- must preserve their dignity and the children must be appropriately clothed. As a child protection agency first and foremost, it is very important to us that we consistently remain within the bounds of this policy, even to the extent of allowing an external agency to associate their work with us. Also, the story that I was referring to is ‘The Story Behind: Ali Reza‘ (January 17th 2014), due to the description of a 19 year old young adult injecting himself with heroin.
I understand completely that this limits the support that you were originally planning to give us. However, as an organisation we maintain and expect all our staff and associates to follow our child protection policy and act according to the highest standards. The consequences of this can range from not allowing a website/blog owner to use our logo, to refusing a partnership with a company that has a history or instance of unethical conduct.
I hope this has made things a bit clearer for you. As I mentioned in my last email, this refers only to the use of our logo on your blog. We would still welcome any donation that you wished to make to us on an individual level.
Before clicking on Part 2, I’d be interested in hearing your views at this point – please comment! Its all very polite, but is this the outcome you expected? What issues do you see here? What do you think?