Over the past year as a team we’ve been discussing some of the terms used surrounding the photography and videography industry that just didn’t sit right with us. You see many of the terms used in photography and videography are surprisingly similar to weapons, hunting and military. I don’t know about you, but none of those topics are what come to mind when I typically think about working with my clients. We felt like there had to be alternatives for words like shoot, trigger, headshot, capture, run and gun, master, striking etc.

 

A little personal context: Last year while on assignment in Kenya we were filming in a dry river bed in a remote community. There was an ongoing famine and it hadn’t rained in months. All of a sudden the ground started to shake and over the crest of the river bank came thousands of goats running into the river bed. Shortly after we saw a young woman who was 16 years old pick up a large stone to defend her herd from us. Thankfully our translators acted quickly and after finding a member of the community, who spoke both Swahili and the local tribal language, introduced us and explained why we were there. Kumontare eventually relaxed and understood we were not there to harm or take her animals.

 

 

She had walked over 3 hours one way in search of water for these goats. She had a lot of pride in her job and was open to talking about her life. She shared that she was married at the age of 12 and has 3 children she now cares for. When asked what she did about school she asked “what’s school?” She lived in a nomadic tribe and the concept of organized education was a foreign idea to her. It was in that moment I started thinking how careful we have to be with our words. Had I then asked “is it okay if we shoot your goats?” She probably would have thrown the stone at me. However everywhere I’ve traveled in the world there’s 2 words that are widely known: Coke and Photo. After asking if we could photograph her animals she also posed for some portraits and was happy to see the first photograph of her ever taken.

 

 

While this probably sounds like a pretty extreme example I think it does shed light on the importance of the words we use and their meaning and perceived understanding of them. As a company we’re taking strives to update the language we use and make sure that every individual we interact with feels respected and treated with dignity.

 

We’ve seen similar approaches in the real estate industry where they’ve replaced “master bedroom” with “primary bedroom” because of its original roots during slavery. After doing some research we realized we weren’t alone in our thinking and found similar ideas being presented by Photographers Without Borders (https://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/online-magazine/decolonizing-the-language-of-photography) and Diversify Photo (https://diversify.photo/visual-thesaurus/).

 

We recently had an open discussion with members of the Westminster Collective to gain more perspective and discuss some alternatives as well as the history behind some of these phrases. While I don’t believe all of these phrases were necessarily rooted in evil, or ill intent, I do think we can do better.

 

Below are some of the suggestions we came up with and are starting to adopt as a team. What other terms do you think are being used out of context or could have better alternatives?

 

Shoot – Session
Trigger – Button
Headshot – Business Portrait
Capture – Document
Point and shoot – On The Go
Run and gun – Fast Paced
Scope Out – Site Visit
Subject – Person
Master/Slave – Primary/Secondary

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