Guidelines on taking pictures and writing stories

  • Images & Messages

During your volunteer experience you will live alongside local people in local communities and, for some of you, in some of the most deprived areas of the world.

By being an international volunteer you have a unique opportunity to be a witness to the economic, social and political situations of a particular country and learn more about the actual structures and agents that help perpetuate poverty in that country.  Photography and stories from volunteers are among the most compelling and powerful ways of communicating.

 Your pictures and stories could help to break sterotypes, tell more than a one sided story and inspire people in Ireland to take action as global citizens to effect change in the underlying causes of injustice and inequality. Also, on return to Ireland they might be useful:

  • To share your experience to your friends and family in your community;
  • To make people aware of the issues you have come across in the country where you volunteered;
  • To show the challenges people are facing there, and that local initiatives do make a difference in the field.

As an EIL Volunteer, we ask you to avoid using images and messages that reinforce stereotypes, sensationalise or discriminate against people, situations or places and to use images, messages and case studies with the full informed understanding, participation and permission of the subjects (or subjects’ parents/guardians).

When you take a picture or write a story you should be realistic and respectful of people and the complexity of their lives. The images should show the reality of the lives of people you meet and their environment without negatively impacting on their dignity. 

Images and Messages

Do’s & 

  • Ask permission before photographing someone.
  • Explain that you would like to use the photo at home to tell the story of this commuity and get permission.
  • Keep a record the names of the people in the photo and anything they would like to say about the context of the photo.
  • Use good caption explaining the what is happening in the image and where it was taken.
  • For children in residential care settings, or where you are unable to get the consent of the parent/guardian to use the image publically in Ireland, then consider photos where childrens faces are not identified.
  • Try to capture photographs that show people in action, playing, working, learning, building, creating; to highlight the skills and talents of your host community.
  • Do promote positive attitudes towards disabilities by showing people with special needs going about their everyday lives as members of their communities.
  • Do show the circumstances that make people you work/live with vulnerable. Show them with dignity being active and resourceful in the face of challenges.
  • Do use images that tell a story and that the audience can engage with. Show the circumstances and the environments in which the people of you host community live.
  • Do show how local projects are having an impact and helping to change people’s lives.

Don’ts

  • Do not show children or vulnerable adults as helpless victims. E.g. closely cropped pictures with the eyes looking up to the camera. We should be truthful, not sentimental.
  • Do not show pictures where local staff or local people’s name are excluded.
  • Do not only use photographs that illustrate people’s vulnerability.
  • Do not, as much as possible, use pictures that make volunteers appear as saviours dispensing aid to passive recipients. The work of volunteers is only possible because of the work of local people to facilitate their involvement.

On your journey you will meet inspiring and talented people working at all levels in communities. You will undoubtedly make memories of a lifetime and hopefully some of those will be captured in the images you take and the stories you record of the people and communities you encounter. Back in Ireland people will enjoy living your journey with you through your images and hopefully the people in Ireland who see your stories will be inspired to take action, even in some small way, for global justice.

EIL operates in adherance to the Dochas Code of Conduct on Images and Messages. If you would like to provide us with feedback on our adherance to the code please email [email protected] and a member of staff will review your feedback and take appropriate action. If you would like to make a complaint to Dochas about our use of images and messages you can do so through this link