Indigenous Media Presence – Commissioning Guide

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Find the full Indigenous Media Presence project HERE

A best practice guide and check-list to commissioning and being commissioned for photography of Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities, in relation to our research recommendations, that considers:

  • Fair pay and limited licensing terms
  • Value-based, ethical and risk considerations from our research study
  • Cultural sensitivities

Overall guidance:

Lines of communication should include different languages to support and promote the resilience of native languages.

Publications should look to publish in the language of the people who appear in images or articles and/or share the publication with the communities in their dialect. 

The global media should diversify their pool of translators to allow and promote the resilience of different languages, and prevent dominant languages such as English and Spanish from making the existence of native languages invisible.

When commissioning new photography:

Exploratory research should deeply consider: 

  • What is the story?
  • Who will tell the story and why?
  • How to form connections? 
  • Being open to collaboration

Favour positive stories, which are more empowering for communities. If reporting on negative stories, positive elements of resilience and resistance should be highlighted as far as possible.

Create work with a flexible, transparent and informed approach.

Employ a considered editing approach which continues to be open to collaboration.

Consider the usefulness of sharing, and being open with, content.  

Be transparent and fair with industry-standard fees that reflect the length of licensing. Paying the same rate to photographers regardless of their country of origin and publishing pay rates openly are steps to achieving this. 

Honesty is essential in all interactions with photographers and communities.

Create considered and fair licensing agreements – exclusivity for no more than 3 months is a good industry example when licensing stories.

Even when licensing with exclusivity, communities should receive copies of the images and have the right to use them after publication e.g. for their own social media.

Non-exclusivity can be a more equitable approach to licensing work in the non-profit sphere.

When going on assignment:

Speak with the people appearing in images about any potential risks. Many will be aware of these risks already. Consider together the risks of identifying names, locations and faces of people in images.

Respect communities or individuals who do not want to be photographed. 

Consider the impact of photography on the mental health of the person photographed.

Be collaborative with the editing process, such as selecting photos with the people photographed, and be open to deleting photographs that raise concerns. This creates a more horizontal relationship between the photographer and the person photographed and helps to mitigate problems arising from publication.

All parties involved should be given the opportunity to see the publication before publishing to evaluate potential risks and concerns.

When purchasing or licensing existing work:

Exploratory research should consider:

  • What is the story?
  • Why are these images required to illustrate this story?

Be aware of the cultural context of images and do not de-contextualise images; be sensitive and aware of cultural appropriation. 

Further dialogue is required if and when the story deviates from the original agreement. 

Agree fair, equitable licensing parameters (with whom and how will the work be shared;  in what context) 

Be transparent and fair with industry-standard fees that reflect the length of licensing.

When selling existing work:

Transparency with the community about the destination of work is vital.

Provide cultural context with images.

Make photographs available with a press release/story which provides context for editorial use – licensees must not deviate from that story.

Sensitive documentary photography is rarely suitable for commercial use licensing.

Consider the destination of income from images, such as contribution back to the community.



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