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What is Ethical Storytelling?

Ethical storytelling has become a buzz word within the creative industry, which is both a pro and a con. It's a pro because more people are becoming aware of the need to tell stories ethically, and it is a con because many people have no clue what the term truly means and what it embodies. Ethical storytelling is at the heart of everything we do at No! Wahala Magazine, that is why we have started this new series titled ‘What is Ethical storytelling?’ Where we will be discussing different themes that fall under this umbrella term.

First of all, let’s go back to basics and find out the definition of this term. ‘Ethics is based on well founded standards of right and wrong and determines what humans should or shouldn’t do.’ To be ethical is to be ‘someone who is honest and follows good moral standards’ and as most words originate from either greek or latin, ‘ethical’ is derived from the greek word ‘ethos’ which means ‘moral character’.

For centuries, the photography industry has been guilty of participating in unscrupulous standards of telling stories. Issues such as poverty porn, the western gaze, othering, representation, ownership- (and the list goes on), has either made people skeptical about having their images taken, or has created a huge distrust towards the work that photographers do and what their intentions are.


It is important to note that ethical storytelling is subjective, people’s thoughts on what is ethical and what isn’t may differ based on the context and circumstances of the situation. Saying this however, does not deter the fact that there are universally agreed ideas on the fundamentals of what makes an image ethical, which are;

  • Treating contributors with respect and dignity

  • Being accurate and comprehensive in the representation of contributors

  • Being complete with the provision of contextual information e.g captioning images correctly

And the list goes on.


No one will perfect telling stories ethically, infact, the topic is so fluid that what may be considered ethical today might turn out to be something completely different tomorrow. What is important however is a willingness to develop, adapt and put in extra effort to present narratives that are fair, honest (subject to individual interpretation) and respectful.

Join us next week as we delve deeper into various themes that fall under ethical storytelling and how we can all apply it into the work that we do to tell better visual stories.

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