We met in the midst of COVID-19, together with the movement to combat police violence and structural racism, to claim the rights of all workers who work behind the lens and define actions that build a safer, healthier, more inclusive and transparent.
The COVID-19 pandemic made the inequalities faced by workers, especially those who are already marginalized (blacks, indigenous people and people of color; the autonomous working class; women, non-binary people, and people who do not identify with their gender, people with disabilities and LGBTQIA + people). The pandemic is also an opportunity to correct these injustices. The current scenario has revealed systemic oppression, increased tensions in society and, as a result, triggered a global claim to civil rights. This revolution emphasizes the dissolution of the systems that historically support and maintain white supremacy, together with a direct and comprehensive transformation that honors the current moment. This movement is a collective call for immediate action. The Photo Bill of Rights is a fundamental step in changing our industry and achieving rights and access for all.
The work and livelihood of lens workers (including photographers, filmmakers, video and radio and television journalists, visual editors, assistants and producers) have been questioned long before this pandemic. This Bill of Rights speaks primarily of the concerns of self-employed workers, although it is also largely relevant to wage earners.
This document draws attention to issues related to health, safety, access, bias, ethics and remuneration across the industry of visual journalism and editorial media, and offers solutions to establish more egalitarian standards through practical measures.
The media cannot claim that they are fighting for a greater understanding of injustices if they continue to defend practices that marginalize workers. The male, white, western and cisgender gaze has been used to colonize, unprotect and dehumanize. The consequence of living this way, in extreme inequality, has been experienced by those who have less access to power, resources and opportunities within the industry.
We offer this information to all workers in this field and we hope that it can serve as a base and help to amplify the transformations of the industry worldwide.
This is not a valid document by law, it is a call to action. A guide. A code of ethics. This is an opportunity to recognize problems within our industry and to resolve them.
The physical and mental well-being of these workers requires attention and transparency regarding the risk involved in each job, possible extra remuneration due to that risk, training, access to personal protective equipment and post-traumatic care, when necessary.
These workers are often exposed to their work, which makes it important to frequently assess appropriate practices to ensure physical, mental and emotional health and safety; legal and digital security and respect for identity (including race, religion, sex, sexuality, age, or disability).
Whether on an agenda or in situations related to industry, workers and everyone involved during the work process must be treated respectfully. An industry that supports, speaks openly about traumas, care, adopts the practice of non-violent communication, respects limits and dignifies the humanity of all people.
Respecting each one's circumstances leads to collective well-being. Workers must have the right to decide to mitigate risks and make informed decisions for themselves, their families and the communities in which they live and work.
Do not punish workers for expressing their concerns about their own safety.
Provide and / or reimburse appropriate personal protective equipment, provide training opportunities in hostile environments, and other necessary security materials. Recognize that the lack of experience or training is often used to justify unfair hiring, with lower rights and wages, and this practice should be abolished as soon as possible.
In the event of illness, injury, detention, or death while doing the job, care must be taken for the worker and his family. Rather providing an assessment of the risk involved and providing health and concerned assistance related to justice.
Implement an additional hazard for high-risk or life-threatening jobs.
Hire local workers and support them as a reference in their own communities; local workers can often better understand the specific risks in their regions and neighborhoods.
Give priority to the health and safety of workers and those involved in carrying out the work, including journalists, drivers, sources and members of the community. Protect these individuals and relationships throughout the editorial process.
Respect for financial matters and security are fundamental to the success of all workers. In addition, the payment process transparently, the payment without delay, the payment in advance when necessary, an additional risk premium, and address financial and contractual issues without retaliation.
Fair and transparent business relationships create a culture of financial security for everyone. Inefficient payment systems, late expense reimbursement, abusive contract language and unclear complaints, not only waste workers' time and resources, but also contracting parties.
Workers without access to financial, social and legal resources are often forced to leave the area. Workers spend countless unpaid hours trying to adapt to bureaucratic dynamics, trying to secure their pay.
There must be financial compensation, in the case of works that are canceled or unpublished, in lieu of the initial payment.
Having a late payment and possible expenses involved in the realization of the agenda, demand a significant cash flow, which is impracticable for many workers and often, prevents them from accepting work. Payment in advance or on the agreed date, and reimbursement of expenses guarantee the work without any financial risks, debts or long-term damage.
Workers should not feel forced to consider their employment relationships with contracting parties due to the need to collect severance payments and execute contracts. The transparent and respectful exchange must be the basis, regardless of the individual financial situation of the workers.
Before starting work, there must be a clear and mutual understanding:
- Contract, terms and all necessary paperwork;
- Payment schedule;
- Billing instructions;
- Direct contact with the legal and financial departments in case of doubts and questions regarding payment.
Ensure reimbursement of expenses. Consider implementing late payment penalties.
Financial compensation will be implemented for works that are not published or that are canceled before its completion. Remuneration and terms will include the right to look for another channel for publication and its respective licensing.
Ensure that the copyright remains with the worker, eliminating the use of depredatory employment contracts or paying any extra fees to account for the loss of future earnings.
Ensure that the sublicensing rights remain with the worker, enact terms that share the sublicensing proceeds or pay higher fees to compensate for the loss of future earnings.
Eliminate the practice of silent retaliation that is implied when workers contest contractual conditions. Recognize that these attitudes exist and strive to prevent them from happening anymore. Having more transparent conversations that hold people accountable and help build a supportive community.
Workers from marginalized groups are constantly exposed to abusive sexual behaviors, veiled and explicit discrimination, harassment and aggression while working. Give priority to the safety of all workers, addressing concerns and complaints with policies designed to eliminate sexual abuse and misconduct.
Abuse and inappropriate sexual behavior in industry individuals (including sources, colleagues and superiors) is mainly due to the lack of respect for the autonomy of each individual's body and the consequence of an industry that remains extremely misogynistic and racist.
Industry efforts for equality and inclusion are hampered when marginalized workers leave the area as a result of abuse. Abuse has historically been characterized by promises of professional growth and / or threats aimed at damaging the career. A safe and responsible industry can only exist if a zero-tolerance attitude towards abuse and sexual misconduct is applied.
Commit to a policy and protocol to investigate allegations of all forms of sexual abuse and misconduct. Give priority to the safety of the person involved who exposes the allegations. Make this policy and its protocol clear to all self-employed workers.
Do not use confidentiality agreements and other legal instruments to silence those who have suffered abuse, harassment or discrimination.
The information regarding the abuses, must be accessible, creating a history in the institution with information about who can be considered an abuser, and therefore, not contractable. Having this information conveyed in a veiled manner is inadequate and insufficient, as it impedes the protection of workers and unfairly transfers the burden of those who engage in abusive behavior (and their employers) to victims and potential victims who have to take affirmative action to avoid abusers.
Do not tolerate abusers. Create a protocol that gives priority to harm reduction and creates responsibility.
Eliminate silent retaliation when workers report abuse.
An ethical industry requires equal access to opportunities, compensation, as well as support for continued growth. Create codes of conduct, training and transparent mechanisms to identify the prejudice implicit in decision making.
Build relationships with a broad base of workers, of different identities. The strength of an industry can be measured through parity with workers with fewer resources, who are underrepresented and under-supported.
A narrative concerned with its transparency and legitimacy leads to a well-informed society. This requires a respectful approach to communities and a deep understanding of the issues, stories and people being documented. The practice of inclusive hiring helps in this process and promotes new perspectives along the lines of these narratives.
Recruit, train, guide and support workers who have few resources.
Establish equal partnerships with groups of workers, including local workers within their own community. Review and expand this list frequently.
Establish and implement a comprehensive system to monitor and analyze hiring practices to ensure that job opportunities are equitable.
Create transparent salary structures that show tax rates in all sectors. Eliminate wage disparities.
Eliminate prejudice on maternity issues. Do not discriminate against pregnant workers. Show support to working parents by not making assumptions and letting them say instead if they need to change the workload.
End retaliation when workers raise questions about prejudice against women.
This Bill of Rights is a first step towards working as a collaborative and more aware industry. Change is possible if we are willing to identify and address relevant problems, at the individual and institutional level.
Tell visual stories that defend integrity, respect, transparency, and responsibility. Now is the time to work together to build a sustainable industry that is accessible, equitable, and inclusive for everyone; anything less than that impedes the ability to be an authentic mirror for the world.
If you are a worker in the field: sign and share this document with your colleagues to have more transparency in your practice.
If you are a Contractor: sign and use this document to publicize these actions and defend those you hire.
If you are in any position that can amplify this message: sign and defend policies and actions to end toxic behavior in our industry.
The Photo Bill of Rights was created in order to take the objectives of this initiative into effective action.
We recognize that this document was made by photography and audiovisual workers in the United States, where the industry frequently exploits the workforce of those workers outside the country. We hope this can be a seed for people and organizations outside USA to defend the specific needs of their own communities. We will unite, expand, and support any effort in this regard.
[Published on 22 June 2020; Updated on June 26, 2020].