Consent & canoeing (20.06.2016)
Over 25 years ago, my dad and I were paddling back to shore near the Outlet River – at Sandbanks Provincial Park (Province of Ontario, in Canada) – when a man on shore waved us over. He introduced himself as Jim Merrithew, a professional photographer who was taking promotional photos for Ontario Parks and Ontario Tourism. Bear in mind, this was long before the days of digital cameras and social media.
Mr. “Call me Jim” Merrithew had seen the sun just starting to set behind us as we were canoeing, and asked if we’d be willing to go back out onto Lake Ontario to “just paddle around” in the bay while the sun went down. And let him take photos, of course.
So off we went. Dad and I goofed around in the canoe for fifteen minutes, and Jim called us back over to “sign some papers”. If you know my dad, you’ll know he detests filling in forms. It took a few minutes, but we found a solution; I completed all the documents, for both of us, so all dad had to do was sign his photo release forms.
Then he & I headed to our campsite, where mom was making supper. I don’t know whether we even mentioned the photographer to her. I’d stuffed our copies of the release forms into a backpack, with my beach towel & sunscreen, and didn’t pull them out until the next day.
A month later, dad & I each received an unexpected envelope in the mail.
A gorgeous photo, of the two of us canoeing, with the sunset in the background.
We still see photos, from those 15 minutes in the canoe together, in Ontario Tourism brochures every now & then. The photo I’ve posted is one of them, from the 2000 “Adventure Ontario” guidebook. (1)
Although I didn’t think of it that way at the time, each of those photo release forms was just a different type of consent form. There was one release each for Ontario Parks and Ontario Tourism (completed in duplicate, so each of us would have signed copies to keep).
I didn’t keep any of those 4 copies, for me or my dad; they were probably ruined after spending a day crushed into a pack with a damp beach towel. It’s too bad – it would’ve been fun to reread those documents now, with my background in both research ethics and privacy protection! I wonder how much – or how little – of that language would’ve changed in the intervening years…
The words “in perpetuity” are all that I do recall from the photography release forms, as I’d been working with contracts at work that year. So I suppose there’s an eerie possibility that these photos will still be popping up in Ontario publications and websites long after we’re gone…
Photo: Ontario Tourism, taken by Jim Merrithew Photography
(1) Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation (an agency of the Ontario Ministry of Tourism). Editor-in-Chief Alan Wojcik. Ontario Ministry of Tourism. 2000. Page 73 of 84.