How Photographers Gain Trust
and Build Relationships With Their Subjects
“While covering the ZAD, my camera only came out of its bag after three weeks or so,” the photographer Kevin Faingnaert remembers. The ZAD, or zone à défendre, is a rural protest camp in France—one of the largest of its kind—and photographers were generally met with caution and skepticism.
“Ever since 2009, this 4,000-acre space comprising farms, wetland, forests, and abandoned properties has been inhabited by environmentalist activists, the zadists, opposing the construction of an international airport that threatens to turn the surrounding countryside into a sprawling metropolis,” Faingnaert explains.
“By the time I visited, there had already been lots of violent police interventions, so many of them were already known to the police. Some of them are even considered terrorists by the state. The last thing they were interested in was being photographed as the face of the ZAD. A majority of the people living there also like to live in solitude and are not welcoming to visitors, especially photographers, for that reason.”
With in-depth insights from Faingnaert, Oded Wagenstein, Christian K. Lee, Michael Joseph, and Jamie Johnson, we’re taking a look at how documentary photographers can gain and maintain trust while working on long-term projects. Here are some best practices to keep in mind.