Writing about a person is one thing, but taking photos is quite another.
With project-based photography, I work with analogue rather than digital film. One reason for this is that negatives cannot be copied and, once destroyed, they are gone for good. I process all black-and-white film myself and the film processors I use all sign a non-disclosure agreement for processing colour film.
Because the projects I’m working on are long-running, it is entirely possible that after I have started working with someone, their life circumstances will change. They may be open about who they are when we start working, but later on, may wish to be more private. To cover this I have a clause in my model release form that says I will destroy any negatives at any point on request. If any scans have been made from the negatives they will also be deleted. Unlike many model releases, mine does not waive someone’s right to how their image may be used in perpetuity. The model release also explains exactly what the photos will be used for and in what context they may be displayed.
If I’m working on portfolio photography in exchange for interviews, I will shoot in digital, and there’s a separate photographer’s standard model release to cover that. I still take care to ensure the photos are never shared or used without permission.
I don't really share long-term projects on Instagram until they are at a point where they are ready to be published. You will see occasional work-in-progress updates on Twitter. Work is only shared with permission and will be deleted on request including if someone decides to withdraw from the project. One of my current projects has been running since 2013 and still isn't ready for exhibition or sharing on social media; and it may never be, depending on the wishes of the person I've been working with.
I work closely with Paul McDonald from Contact Sheet Gallery, who has been my mentor since the start of my project and has been incredibly influential in my approach to working on this topic. Charles Kirk is another teacher/photographer who has been influential in his approach to long-term project making.
I think a key part of my process is that long-term photography projects allow you to tell stories in a more nuanced and deeper way than if you spend two weeks shooting a topic you have little knowledge of.
A good example of the kind of work I'm inspired by and that I think reflects what I'm trying to do would be Robin Hammond's Where Love is Illegal, which he began in 2014. It's a long-term project tackling the stigma faced by the LGBTI community, sharing their stories across the world using portraiture. It uses Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and traditional media to share the stories of people. Where Love is Illegal helps people tell their stories and works with them on portraits that the portrait subjects construct. Hammond is not part of the LGBTI community that he works with which is one reason I think he is a good example for my own project. Through his project Hammond has brought a front cover to National Geographic and LGBTI stories that the magazine has previously never considered. It's a project that amplifies the voices of the people he works with, and its impact has been recognised by an Amnesty International Media Award.
I started shooting video in 2016 because I think it enables people I work with to tell their stories in a very immediate way that subverts all the common assumptions about people who want sex workers' rights recognised. I share these through Vimeo (https://vimeo.com/frasercrichton).
One reason why I started working with video is that I think it's a skill I can offer to the under-resourced people I work with. Many of the NGOs I'm interested in working with that represent sex workers or work on issues that affect sex workers don't have in-house skills in video or the budget to pay someone to work with them. As I'm self-funded I hope that's something I can offer to the people I'm interested in working with.
It's technically easier for people to take photos since the digital revolution, but it's still a slow and laborious process to record high-quality video and audio and edit it together into something that people will watch.
I apply the same rigorous approach to confidentiality and collaboration that I do with the rest of my project. Where possible I'll involve the people I'm working with in editing and the pre-production process. I’m currently looking at workshopping with people so that they understand the limitations of time and resources and get the outcome they are after.