Photograph vs Digi-photo

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by blansky, Apr 9, 2003.

  1. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    After the LA Times firing of the photographer for manipulating the war image perhaps it is time for an organization such as ours to lead the way in correcting the names of what is a true photograph and what is a digital photo/illustration.

    Perhaps, two things need to happen. The first is to define how much manipulation of a standard process photograph is allowed ( cropping, burning dodging, masking) before it enters the realm of illustration.

    The second is to do the same for a digi-photo. How much photoshop is allowed before it enters the realm of digital illustration.

    The result would be that these things are named correctly.

    1. photograph
    2. photo/illustration
    3. digi/photo
    4. digital photo illustration.

    This way when one is identified in the media or other places everyone will know what it is.

    What do you think.

    Michael McBlane
     
  2. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Michael,

    I really like your idea about defining catagories of photographic representation and furthermore defining what each of these catagories would represent.

    I think that this is pertinent to the state of affairs as they exist today and certainly some individual and or body needs to take the lead in furthering the establishment of these criteria.

    How do you propose to arrive at an agreed upon group of parameters that will define what each of these catagories entail and what the characteristics of these would be?

    Once these are determined, how would the initiation of these parameters be accomplished within the photographic and media community?

    Does there exist, today, any guiding body within the photographic community that would become involved in the establishment of this defining process? I can't think of one myself.

    Since I have posed these questions, I will enter my thoughts along the lines of these as well. I think that one possible means would be to create a poll, the location of which would be published in all available photographic publications and photographic forums such as this, in which the readers or participants could participate in selecting from a group of criteria that would determine what each of the catagories would represent. My reasoning is that until a general consensus is reached that any attempt to arbitrarily establish catagories and determining criteria will still be open to no or, at the very best, very limited interpertation.

    Once again, I think that your idea certainly has a lot of merit. I will look forward to other ideas as they are proposed.
     
  3. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    Michael,

    I understand your reasons and logic but think that to impliment them is fraught with problems. Who will decide the catergories? How can it be monitored and controlled? When measures like this are introduced I feel that we are entering the dodgy area of censorship, although I'm certain that this is not your intention. I guess that I can be accused of being cynical but no matter how genuine your reasons for wishing to define standards, somewhere down the line people will manipulate them to their own advantage and we end up with untruths as depicted in the LA photographers composite image.

    Press and media images have always been manipulated to show what the editor, publisher etc want to show and I guess we just have to live with it. Eight years ago I went to Belfast in Northern Ireland to photograph a documentary on the communities and spent two years living in the heart of the troubles. Some photographers working for the UK press were guilty of appalling manipulation of people to get the image that the editor required for the next days headline. It's my view that the good sense and integrity of the ordinary people of this world will always win through in the end and the cheats will be exposed.

    Photographic images have been manipulated for years, and I'm not talking of burning and dodging. Henry Peach Robinson used several negatives to construct images over 100 years ago and the results are amazing, but was he wrong to do it. Jerry Ulesman has produced some wonderful images doing the same thing and even our own Bob Freed had an image in the gallery made from a negative exposed in Ireland and a second in Denver. All are valid and interesting photographs made with good intentions.

    I found your post extremely stimulating even though I don't really agree that we should catagorise photography in they way you outlined. Thank you for sharing your views.
     
  4. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

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    I'm not sure labeling would help any.

    Here is the problem. In a situation like the one we currently have, a manipulated photo can be used to manipulate the public. Nothing new here as the Soviets did it, the Germans did, the U.S. did it.

    The question is, is this allowable in a nation with freedom of the press? Many say that ethically the press takes on a huge obligation for accepting the freedom that it has. That in exchange for freedom, they must report the unbiased truth.

    Lately this seems have been ignored. For example Fox News used its news ticker to spread Michael Moore jokes! Now excuse me, but that is just WRONG. I took journalism in college. That would have gotten ANYONE an F during their practicum! And a serious chewing out by Tomas Guillen (a very respected prof at my college and a Pulitzer finalist). Likewise "embedded" journalists would be verboten.

    I'm not sure what the solution is though. People will rarely read the fine print to see if an image is manipulated or not. They will just assume it is real. Which is the danger. Imagine if they had Photoshop and the level of censorship they have now in Vietnam.

    "Bombing of Cambodia? What bombing?"
     
  5. Nige

    Nige Subscriber

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    I have noticed our papers labeling photos as manipulations, can't remember the terminolgy they use though.

    Yesterday I parked outside a Kodak affiliated mini-lab and all over their window were signs proclaiming 'we turn your digital imaegs into REAL photos' I had a chuckle...
     
  6. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Perhaps because of the origin of this post it seems that the focus of the replies,to this point, have been limited to photo journalism. Is this the only aspect of photography that would be affected by Michael's idea of establishing criteria and catagories?

    Are the other areas, in which photography is utilized, subject to the determination of the viewer as to the basis of the image and it's reality?

    In other words, if I were a novice collector of photographic images should it be up to me to determine whether an image were carbon, platinum, silver chloride contact, silver gelatin or the latest creation of the fellow at the keyboard of his computer and his ever ready Epson printer?

    There is one photographer, of which I am aware, that has very creatively labeled his digitally printed photographic images. These were supposedly rendered in camera with conventional film and then scanned, enhanced in Photoshop, and then digitally printed. Is this a photograph or is it not?

    I agree that photo journalism seems to have lost it's way recently insofar as reporting the factual basis of the present reality. But I wonder is this the only area which has been affected.
     
  7. lee

    lee Member

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    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (dnmilikan @ Apr 9 2003, 03:11 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> There is one photographer, of which I am aware, that has very creatively labeled his digitally printed photographic images. These were supposedly rendered in camera with conventional film and then scanned, enhanced in Photoshop, and then digitally printed. Is this a photograph or is it not?

    </td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    I too know of one person that is using analog and digital together. His name is David Fokos. He shoots an old Korona 8x10 and scans in the negs and adds and subtracts in Photoshop. When the file is ready, it is output to a light Jet machine. The prints are 3'x3' square. When he was a platinum artist he only went to 13".

    here is a link for some of his older work.

    http://www.bostick-sullivan.com/Gallery/Fo...Fokos/fokos.htm

    lee\c
     
  8. harry

    harry Member

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    I think the situation will eventually resolve itself. People who make unmanipulated images will be able and eager to prove that their images aren't manipulated, and everything else will be suspect. I've thought for a while that digital photography could end up being the best thing that ever happened to traditional film photography.
     
  9. fhovie

    fhovie Subscriber

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    Digital photography is the new holy grail. No one who just spent a kilobuck on a postage stamp size ccd with a lens that is 1/4 wide wants to hear that his new toy is anything less than all that. To even suggest there might be an advantage to reducing silver ions will cause a rain of mudslinging that will cause you to duck and take cover. I tend to work backwards from the end product. I can't get a digital image to look as good as a print made from a 4x5 neg in a 11x14 or larger size for non comercial (other than fine art sales) purposes. So I adjust exposure and development to compress or expand the contrast and use tanning developers to restrain local contrast and dodge and burn and -- -- -- sounds kind of manipulated. Then I want to post the image and I have to do all that in photoshop as well just to match what I strived for on the print. I know that photographers sometimes keep sky shots to put a nicer sky behind a building or scene they like - Photoshop just makes it easier. Nope. Didgital just took what we were already doing and made it a little faster - sometimes better and sometimes worse - I have yet to see an unsharp mask work as well on the PC as it does in the darkroom. It is not a cut and dried answer to this one - we tend to remember how we felt when we saw something and that drives us to make an idealized image anyway.
     
  10. haris

    haris Guest

    What if I make photo(image) heavily manipulated on computer, let say photo montage and save it on CD and print it on photo paper for example on Frontier machine? How anyone can prove that this is not manipulated photo? That is problem, how to diference manipulated from non manipulated photos.
     
  11. RAP

    RAP Member

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    I look at it from two catagories, photography vs graphic arts. Where is the boundry and how wide the gray area.

    All cameras are basically the same; a lens, a light tight box, and a light sensitive medium. It really does not matter whether the image is recorded on film or digitally. The image right from the camera is essentially unmanipulated. In the darkroom, the traditional photographer will use what ever means at his disposal to achieve a print for the intended use, be it gallery, newspaper, magazines, etc. He can dodge, burn, control contrast, flash, color correction, tone, bleach, control exposure.

    Now the traditional photographer can scan his images, digitize them. Here is where the digital and the traditional photographer merge. Now both can go into Photo Shop and do the very same things to images done in the traditional darkroom.

    It would seem, the real problem is just how much manipulation can one do where he crosses the line between photography and graphic arts? How much manipulation, how far can you alter an image where it becomes something alien, different from the original image?

    I believe you can manipulate an image far more once it is digitized in Photo shop then in the traditional darkroom. Even add and remove elements, like that news photographer did. Or even form abstracts as in what Gordon Parks did in one of his books of digital art.

    The commercials for Ford with the photographer lugging his LFP camera around are digital and look heavely manipulated, super imposed, montaged. You can sure put a twist on reality with digital.
     
  12. DKT

    DKT Member

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    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (dnmilikan @ Apr 9 2003, 07:42 AM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'>
    &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; Does there exist, today, any guiding body within the photographic community that would become involved in the establishment of this defining process? </td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    as a matter of fact there is a "governing body"--or rather a professional organization for news photographers. The NPPA, and they've been around for over 50 yrs and have a code of ethics that began including statements about digital manipulation back in 1990. The core is in accurate representation and any altering of editorial content is strictly a breach of standards...

    There's a difference bewtween how papers handle illustrations and news, but I don't think would anyone argue that LA Times story was anything but "news" though. There have been other instances over the years, like the National Geographic cover with the Wailing Wall or the Day In the Life books--like CA, where digital alterations were made to "editorial" type images used in a commerical way. The day in the Life books, took the track that the book covers were used to sell the product,, not as a true editorial type image. But there have been discussions about this stuff for years...I've been a member for almost 18 yrs now, and remember going to conferences back in the 80s when they were talking about this sort of thing. Nothing new, but this guy was incredibly stupid to try that, this day in age--he'll probably never work in the industry again. I worked with a guy who was fired from a paper once for falsifying a name in a cutline....it'd been almost twenty years now and I don't think he's worked for another paper since. It's a small world & word gets around.

    KT
     
  13. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    I can think of one area where the amount of manipulation - whether the image starts out as film or CCD - is of *vital* importance - when a photograph is used as evidence in a criminal - or possibly marginally less important - civil trial.

    Once I was contacted by Lawyer representing a teen-ager who had been accused by the police of reckless driving. My photographs, taken as a bystander - I happened to be there - showed that a stop sign that he supposedly violated (there was an accident) was, in fact, screened from view by shrubbery. I supplied a number of 8" x 10" black and white prints - I know the case was dismissed upon presentation of these photographs - but I wasn't called to testify.

    There must be some criteria where opposing legal practioners can argue over the validity of the photographs and the prints ... but I have no idea what they might be.

    Anyone out there have any experience/ thoughts about "Evidence" photography?
     
  14. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Ed, I believe for court you need to have the negs as well as the prints. I also think the photographer has to swear that these are in fact his unmanipulated work.

    Michael McBlane
     
  15. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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  16. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (Aggie @ Apr 21 2003, 07:11 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'>It does need to be like you said Michael, ...

    Sometimes there is enough common sense amoung attorneys to know when the evidence will kill their case and move before go on further.</td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    There ARE times when there is "common sense" among atorneys? My daughter is a Legal Secretary ... and she just giggled a LOT when she read that....

    My daughter's fiancee is a Police Officer, and he uses a Digital Camera in his work. I'm not sure whether those images are ever used as evidence or only as "tools" in the investigations ... I'll ask him when I get a chance.

    Hmm ... " the negative would be necessary?" What safeguard could there be against a secondary - manipulated - negative?
     
  17. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    I guess it comes down to "under oath". A person or witness could also lie about what they see. That is essentially the same thing as a manipulated image.

    Michael McBlane