Sacramento Photojournalist fired for image manipulation

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Mainecoonmaniac, Feb 5, 2012.

  1. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I posted this thread for discussion on ethics of image manipulation done by photojournalist. Yes it's done digitally, but I hope this thread won't get kicked off for this reason. The Sacramento Bee got the heads up from a reader emailed about the alteration. My question is the photo editor culpable for allowing the image to be published? Sounds like there's a zero tolerance for image manipulations in the world.

    http://www.sacbee.com/2012/02/04/4238484/to-our-readers.html

    http://www.nppa.org/news_and_events/news/2012/02/patrick.html
     
  2. billbretz

    billbretz Member

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    Don't question "the photo editor" in this case.

    I would guess that the photo editing that goes on at the Bee these days does not much resemble what people would presume it does.

    Yes, there is and should be zero tolerance for image manipulations in the (US) journalism world. However, lots of folks are fine with it in other types of photography. In fact, the reader comments at the Bee story suggest lots of people (readers, not journalists) are okay with it in this case, too.
     
  3. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    The photog should've know better.

    This isn't model mayhem it's a freakin newspaper.

    Where does it stop?
     
  4. dasBlute

    dasBlute Subscriber

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    it's too bad because - looking at his images - he's got a great eye and doesn't need to do any of that.
     
  5. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I agree

    Yes he's very talented. He's been doing it for decades. I guess this is a cautionary tale for other photojournalist.
     
  6. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Good for them.

    Due to the power of images, banning manipulation for news is, and should be sacrosanct.

    However for pictures of birds and "pretty pictures" the crime is far less egregious. But he knew the rules.

    Historically "news" pictures have been manipulated in the past in many forms, often in the case of Weegee during the taking of them, for dramatic impact.

    For a photojournalist, I can definitely understand the desire to pump up, remove distractions, or introduce more impact by manipulating photographs without changing the intent, or truthfulness of the photograph. Cropping, and burning and dodging has been used since day one for this purpose, but now with photoshop it's so easy to manipulate an image that every photographer often takes shots with this in mind from the outset.

    That's what makes photojournalism, such a specific form of photography. It has to take on a form of truth.
     
  7. zsas

    zsas Member

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    When I was a kid Brokaw, Jennings, et al. read the news, now it seems that Beck, Maddow, et al. interpret the news....seems that some photogs might be caching in on that idea too?
     
  8. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    For one thing there was what... 4 channels and UHF back then.

    Try surfing the myriad of cable/sat rubbish thats out there now.
     
  9. Dan Daniel

    Dan Daniel Subscriber

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    Can we put the Sacramento Bee editors in charge of the US Congress? That would be a great, when any manipulation of facts was cause for dismissal.

    All I can say in the photographer's defense is, It's a f**ging bird festival, eh?? Not like he put a knife in the President's hand or something. That's probably what was going through his mind, eh, it's not really news news, I'll just make this more interesting.

    Doesn't make it right. Too bad, but right decision, in my opinion.
     
  10. clayne

    clayne Member

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    Who's to say that later such a photograph might not be used in research of these particular birds and/or their feeding patterns and intra/inter group behavior?

    Anyways, he missed the shot he wanted and tried to fake it. Will only get worse with the current crop of "photographers" behind the wheel.
     
  11. Alan Klein

    Alan Klein Member

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    Most responsible newspapers have rules regarding photos. How else can their readers believe anything they publish if they start printing fake photographs. However, they do allow cropping and adjustments to exposure but not cloning in and out stuff that wasn;t there in the first place. Most people can understand the difference. Apparently this photographer forgot.
     
  12. Mark Crabtree

    Mark Crabtree Member

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    It is amazing the extent to which most people think that manipulation is okay.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 5, 2012
  13. clayne

    clayne Member

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    Wait though - do you *really* think the printer would do this?
     
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  15. fotch

    fotch Member

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    What is he suppose to do? Get up early and wait all day?
     
  16. Mark Crabtree

    Mark Crabtree Member

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    Yes. People "fix" stuff all the time. It is just daily routine to them. I mentioned it because it made me realize just how "normal" it is in publishing. Most people think nothing of it, which is why newspapers have the policies they do.
     
  17. erikg

    erikg Member

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    Oh yes. Very common. There are many designers out there who think its their job to tidy up the world, getting the prepress people to take out all sorts of things. Comes from the ad world I think. No awareness of documentary ethics.
     
  18. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    In the cases described, I wouldn't have a problem with it if the paper's policy allowed it. All the cases fell in the "pretty pictures" category, not documentary photojournalism, and I don't see any intrinsic problem with manipulation for the sake of pretty pictures in general. (Some people do, but I don't entirely understand how they choose to draw the line between manipulations that they feel are OK---cropping, contrast adjustment, split-grade printing...---and the other kind.)

    Given that there *is* a policy, I guess the paper's position is pretty clear. But it's a shame the guy felt the need to blow off the policy and risk his job over essentially trivial details. People do dumb things.

    -NT
     
  19. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    I agree. I'm speculating it may be rooted in insecurity in the work submitted and the severe competition. This is almost like the steroids scandal in baseball. Something a little extra that's not allowed to give you an extra boost or bump in your results. It's wrong but possible that a lot of others do it and get away with it resulting in an uneven playing field and less ability to compete if you play it straight and follow the rules. Pressure must be intense. Also I'd imagine a case of in the beginning get away once with a tiny thing that might be borderline, and that slowly evolves into more and more and before you know it you're going over the line and becoming bolder and bolder more and more.
     
  20. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    The Bee's ethics policy and style guide prohibit such alteration, saying, "To maintain the credibility of The Sacramento Bee, documentary photographs will not be manipulated in any way that alters the reality of the image."

    Perhaps they should add – "To help ensure this policy, all our photographers only use film.”
     
  21. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I think with the age of instant dissemination of news, shooting film would be impractical. I think newspapers and photojournalist have to be self-policing to protect their reputation. I wish Wall Street would be as honest and honorable.
     
  22. zsas

    zsas Member

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    Film could be manipulated in the same way, internegs, sandwiching, etc, just impractical in photojournalism, but theoretically possible.

    Any folks who have been around longer know of any such cases of alterations when film was king? Pre2000?
     
  23. billbretz

    billbretz Member

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    This is not a film or digital issue, it's a manipulation of reality issue. Unfortunately, Photoshopping of images -pretty rare as best as can be determined- gets far more attention than act that takes place far more frequently - staging.
     
  24. clayne

    clayne Member

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    Well one of the core issues is that if the photographers are taking it to the level of directly modifying images and inserting things that were never there, they're making it about themselves rather than about the subjects.

    On another note if one looks at the bird's reaction when the other bird moves in you'll see that the bird with the frog has recoiled. In no case is the bird with the frog open to the other bird except when it's distant.

    No it's not documentary photojournalism but it is nature photojournalism isn't it? Like I said if the photographs are ever used later for research purposes, etc. - they would be intentionally misleading.

    This is why even something as simple as a bird photograph should be accurate. I commend the Bee for sticking to the time-tested principles of photojournalism regardless of the subject matter. It's called integrity and these days it's rare.
     
  25. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Recently, a professional digital photographer claimed that publishers [newspapers, magazines, ...] were supposed to check the metadata in photographs to validate that the image was not tampered with. I do not know if he was just blowing smoke to was telling me the truth.

    I am glad the photojournalist got canned. According to the article, this was not the first time he did this sort of crap.

    Steve
     
  26. clayne

    clayne Member

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    BTW, here's the Guardian totally missing the point and letting the subject matter dictate integrity:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentis...e-photographer-photoshops-image?newsfeed=true

    They also head down the "since it's taken with a camera, nothing is reality" straw-man route as well:

    "Elliot was on to something. Further investigation revealed that the Great Satan was a serial Photoshopper, once digitally removing a shadow in a sunflower field and replacing it with a sunflower, another time manipulating small wildfire flames to look like ever-so-less-small wildfire flames. So he was summarily sacked. For, after all, in violation of all that is sacred, had he not deliberately misled the reader by manipulating the image to suit his narrative purposes? Yes, he certainly had.

    Exactly like every press photographer does at every newspaper every day and always has. Every photo cropped to eliminate extraneous imagery and every single shot selected from a roll of 24 deliberately portrays time and space to suit a narrative. So does photo processing, depth of field and aperture selection – none of which is neutral. For that matter, every snap represents the photographer's choice to focus on what he or she is focusing on. Manipulation, editing, selective reality: it is the essence of photography. That's what they give out the prizes for (plus luck)."