Open for comment by the ISE Membership via the ISE Managing Director.


The International Society of Ethnobiology (ISE) recognizes that the use of images is an important means of communication in ethnobiology. The ISE also recognizes that changing technologies, especially internet communications, have facilitated widespread uncontrolled exchanges, uses, and marketing of appropriated images. In some cases, images are used in ways that do not benefit the subjects of the image or respect their integrity, cause offense or other types of harm. For example, visual media often portray Indigenous individuals as ‘generic’ representatives of Indigenous peoples, without giving attribution or obtaining permission to use their images.

The following ISE Policy on the Use of Images is meant to ensure that a high standard of respect is maintained when images are used to further the aims of the ISE. The intention is to avoid any potential harm or risk that could come from the publication of an image, to honor the individuality and dignity of individuals and to respect cultural protocols. ISE members and collaborators are encouraged to create and submit images that meet these criteria, and to make best efforts to support these standards in their work. We recognize that many of these requirements are difficult to achieve and that these draft policies and guidelines are likely to evolve; input is welcome from ISE members as the policy develops.


This version of the policy was announced through the member listserv and comments and feedback  invited. While the policy may continue to evolve to meet member needs, this is currently accepted working policy.

Working ISE Policy on the Use of Images


Consent from those being photographed*

  • When possible, before taking a photograph of a person, the photographer should obtain explicit permission to take the photograph. If permission is sought after the photograph is taken, any request to delete or destroy the image(s) should be respected.
  • Use of photographs of people who cannot readily be identified in the image is acceptable if the photograph was taken under ethical conditions (e.g., public venue or with full knowledge that a researcher was taking photographs as part of a consented research program).
  • Permission should be obtained to use the image for the particular purpose desired (eg. website, brochure, other publication).

Note: There are some cases for which consent may be reasonably assumed. For example, from persons who pose in a group photograph taken at an event, such as a conference, or in a public event, such as a media release. For public group photos pre-1990s, one may not assume that the subjects expected to have their image released world-wide. However, it is reasonable to assume that the subjects meant for their image to be public at least within the group/organization involved. Best judgment should be used in these cases. It is good practice to ask about protocol and/or seek consent from the organizer of an event before taking photographs. Considering the intentions of the use of the photograph may also lead to a less strict implementation of these guidelines. For example, it is reasonable for the ISE to use a photograph of ISE co-founder Darrell Posey on the ISE website when discussing the Fellowship named for him, without consulting his estate.

Include the name(s) of identifiable individuals in the caption of the photograph so they are not portrayed as generic or nameless individuals or groups, unless they have requested that names not be used.

Respect any requests made by those photographed, or the photographer, to remove their image(s) from use.

Gain permission to use images of culturally restricted sites, activities, designs or other materials, from appropriate persons within the community of origin. If you are unsure of local or cultural guidelines, be sure to inform yourself, checking with more than one source if necessary, before using the image.

Consent of the photographer to use the image(s) for the particular purpose desired (eg. website, brochure, other publication)

  • credit the photographer
  • include the year of the photo (if known)


Include a caption that describes the place and what is going on in the photograph, to provide context and specificity to the activity portrayed, while respecting any explicit wishes of those photographed concerning the inclusion or exclusion of information relating to the photograph (e.g., locations of traditional gathering sites or other sensitive or proprietary information).


As part of discussions on creating a new website, the ISE Board agreed that a “working policy for images posted to the ISE website” should be developed. This policy, although put together to guide the development of the website, is intended to cover the use of photographs in all ISE promotional material as well, and potentially to serve as a guide for members to use in their own work and publications. A draft working policy was developed by several members of the ISE Board and the ISE Managing Director. A number of available statements and policies on the use of visual media from professional societies and community groups were consulted (resources were collated by Ana Vivaldi and Susannah McCandless).

Resources and Links

Resources and links are included, below, to stimulate further discussion. ISE members and collaborators are encouraged to submit additional resources for this purpose to the ISE Board, via the ISE Managing Director.

Elliott, Deni and Lester, Paul Martin, 2002, Visual Communication and an Ethic for Images

*Throughout, “photograph” refers to both still and moving photography. In some cases this policy would also apply to drawings and other captured visuals.