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        Cameraperson | Lesson Plan Clips

        How many of your students are seemingly attached to their smartphones? How many use their phone cameras to take photos and video that they share online via social media? And how many think of themselves as media makers or journalists, governed by the ethics and standards of those professions? If you’re like most educators, you answered the first two questions with something like “lots” or “all of them,” and you answered the third question with “none.” 

        The fast pace of changing technology has placed a tool in students’ hands that allows them to record and share images with billions of people in mere seconds. Yet very few receive any type of guidance to help them reflect on the implications of their choices. This lesson begins to fill that gap. 

        Using clips from veteran cinematographer Kirsten Johnson’s memoir, Cameraperson, as prompts, students will discuss the complex issues of whether and why those who take pictures (or video) of others need to obtain the consent of their subjects. They’ll use what they learn from that discussion to develop a “pledge” to govern their own use of cameras.

        Clip 1: "It's in Public"

        Cinematographer Kirsten Johnson is shooting b-roll footage of Sarajevo, Bosnia, including the backs of two young men looking out over the city (we never see their faces) and footage of a group of people walking by a cemetery.

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        Clip 2: "Ask the Family"

        District attorney Guy James Gray describes evidence he prepared in the James Byrd case. Byrd, a black man in Jasper, Texas, was chained to a pickup truck and dragged to death by two white men. To avoid showing graphic photos in open court, Gray’s team prepared a book of photos for the jury.

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        Clip 3: "Government Control"

        Johnson’s driver informs her that journalists need permits to shoot video of the prison—and they don’t have a permit. So, they plan to say they are making a movie for entertainment, which doesn’t require a permit. But their subterfuge raises the suspicion of soldiers.

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        Clip 4: "Competence Required?"

        Johnson is shooting footage of her mother, who is identified as being in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. When Johnson asks her mother if it’s okay to film, her mother seems lost in another reality and never actually gives an answer.

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        Clip 5: "Preserving Dignity"

        Syrian dissident Charif Kiwan speaks to a university audience about the ethics of showing the violated, dead bodies of the victims of war or atrocities. When he asserts that showing graphic images is just about making money, a student challenges him.

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