Society would prefer that artists produce material that is ‘politically correct,’ or to put it another way, to not produce material that is considered insensitive to local, regional, or national mores.
Within our own industry, critics of your editorial stock photography will often wave the banner of “ethics,” claiming that you have overstepped certain boundaries in photographing wildlife, or natural objects. Or that you’re intruding into the private lives of individuals or government officials.
What does “ethics” have to do with art? Or don’t you consider yourself an artist? If you think of yourself as an engineer, or a technician, maybe ethics plays a role.
What society calls unethical today, can change tomorrow. Not unlike the fashion industry, or our own industry.
For example, a couple of decades ago, photographers were wringing their hands over the possibility that digital photography would disrupt the ‘ethical purity’ of a photograph by allowing the manipulation of the contents to create an altered image from the original. Today, the voices of protest have subsided and society accepts a digitized image.
This seems to be a cultural question. I don’t think that before digitizing, or before film for that matter, artists ever thought of “ethics” in their art. Before film and digits, there were sketches, oils, pastels, watercolors, engravings, lithographs — and no one ever asked the artist if he or she were being ‘ethical’ by manipulating a scene to change it or improve it.