Ask Permission, Build Trust

I have always understood that my work has more to do with the relationships I make than with the camera in my hand. This concept is essential to improve DEI in campus photography, especially marketing photography. 

This lesson was solidified years ago when all requests to photograph the LGBTQIA Resource Center were met with resistance. The tug-of-war between our departments came to a head during an impromptu discussion with the then-director of the center who explained that our requests were viewed as disingenuous and a form of tokenism.  

This game-changing conversation led me to these best practices: 

  • Ask a community/group how they want to be represented in photos. This can lead to powerful new ideas and collaborations. 
  • Build trust and maintain relationships. Incorporate ideas from the community/program into your work. Demonstrate interest and support for their community even if it doesn’t involve a project that you are working on. 
  • Work throughout the year to capture images rather than relying on one photo shoot. This enables you to capture authentic moments and a variety of images to choose from.  
  • Ask permission. Always be open about what you are doing and give people the choice to opt-out.  

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