RDLab Photo Diagramming Workflows for Photographers

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What is this?

These are notes and questions developed while creating a framework to diagram one's own process. By borrowing the “chain of custody” notion from a legal framework, how can you follow information and media through each stage of movement?

Pertinent Questions

  • How do we understand how media moves through an entire work process, from image maker to editor to distributer?
  • How do we track the workflow?
  • How might a piece of media have a “signature”?

Different types of information flows:

Every project has a unique chain of command. Its important to establish what checks and balances are needed, what are the verification processes being used, and what security blocks are put into place.

  • From reporter to editor to publisher
  • From media collective to human rights group to lawyer for use as evidence
  • From subject (data collector) to advocacy group to internet

Editorial vs. Advocacy

There is a distinction between editorial and advocacy: the responsibility to protect takes place at a different phase.

Editorial: protecting and verifying subjects

  • Verification, security and collection are all happening by the journalist in the field. The work then goes to an editor for re-verification, a security check to protect the subject’s welfare in publishing decisions and to ensure no misrepresentation of anyone that would put them in danger. In this editorial context, a lot of responsibility is on the journalist/photographer.

Advocacy: ensuring the protection of data

  • In a community based advocacy campaign, the data (photos) is collected from a broader group, so verification happens more through agglomeration (i.e. more and more images collected from a place by many people helps to verify authenticity). Verification can also be built into training/guidance of participants, i.e. how to take pictures technically - what needs to be captured, clear visual context of where the image was shot - and how to post/send.


If you could track a piece of media, how would you document its tracking and secure its trail? Where does it get written down? Can it be encrypted as the media travels from place to place?

  • An open source app/ tech tool that is automatic, “opt-in” by data collector, secured, encrypted at every stage
  • Or, a tool for an image to be encrypted and kept in one place where it can be accessed by many and have metadata added to it with version control to see who has accessed and made editions

What is already out there to support such efforts? Can you embed a chain of custody with [InformaCam][1]?

(InformaCam is a plugin for ObscuraCam that allows the user, without much intervention on their own part, to inflate image and video with extra points of data, or metadata. The metadata includes information like the user’s current GPS coordinates, altitude, compass bearing, light meter readings, the signatures of neighboring devices, cell towers, and wifi networks; and serves to shed light on the exact circumstances and contexts under which the digital image was taken.)

Next Steps:

  • Identify technology solution
  • Establish process/guidelines
  • Create a diagram/family tree that best explains process at each step
  • Create a worksheet to think through each phase
    • Determine key questions that need to be asked
    • Determine actors and actions (who they are and what they might do with data, what are their responsibilities?)

Actors: data collector, curator, editor, publisher

Actions: guidance, collection, verification, curation, use, dissemination, archive