I've got a dilemma. Or maybe not a dilemma, but a question. No, it's a dilemma.
I've begun working on a new video piece. It's based on my high school diary. Along with the text (I haven't decided yet whether it'll be text on screen or spoken as voice-over, or maybe some of each), I'm using old photos, clips from movies, some new still photos and video footage of landscape and other locations that evoke the time and place of the diary.
Many many people are mentioned by name in the diary and I want to use real names. I also want to use the yearbook photos of those people. I see this work as documentary. I can't see any ethical problems with doing this, but still I have some trepidation about it. Why? Am I missing something? The thing about the photos, especially in some cases the yearbook photos is that they are, in a sense, what the work is about, so I don't know how I fake them or avoid them.
The pictures are, technically, published. They're not private. Any anecdotes I share will be my thoughts, no one else's, and I don't plan to share any intimate details of anyone else's lives. When I write about other people, it's more about how I feel about them. More about me than them. There are a couple incidents which are more sensitive, and I think I will change the names in those cases and not use photographs. Or maybe I will, if there is something in the public record about those people.
I've been mulling this over in my head for weeks now and can't settle on a satisfactory argument as to why I shouldn't use this material. But for some reason I still feel uneasy.