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Pauwels, L. (2008). Taking and Using. Ethical Issues of Photographs for Research Purposes. Visual Communication Quarterly, 15(4), 243–257. Communication & Mass Media Complete. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15551390802415071


The relative irrefutable character of images challenges ethical decision-making for visual researchers and may even prevent research altogether. This article discusses ethical issues and dilemmas specific to visual research and how visual researchers and research-approval committees struggle with these issues in practice, to best protect the researched without introducing double standards or hindering visual research entirely. I first discuss issues particularly relevant to ethics of visual research: issues of anonymity, and privacy expectations in different contexts of society, the concept of harm to subjects, and the nature and methods of acquiring consent. I then consider the unusual and emerging phenomena of ethics in society and in the academic world, and conclude with a number of suggestions on how best to develop ethical approaches for visual research.