Manipulation - digital or otherwise
This is not (really) a film vs. digital thing but something worth being read, I think.
It depends on the context, of course, but I would hold photojournalists to a pretty high standard - no added objects, no merging of scenes, etc. Really anything other than correcting artifacts of the photographic process should be taboo. This is not a new issue, but goes back at least as far as photojournalism. There are allegations that Mathew Brady reposed corpses for some of his more famous shots. On a more mundane note, when my mother worked for the "Women's" section of the local paper back in the 70s, her editor insisted that all cleavage be airbrushed out of any published photos.
For art, I think anything goes, but there is some degree of disclosure that should be performed.
g'day Dave, tough call
i think we should all draw our own line, and promise ourselves not to cross it
i have some doubts in regard to the article - the Smith example is a little tenous, Smith double printed a wood saw handle into an environmental portrait that already told the viewer the great humanitarian was involved in building a wooden structure, this 'manipulation' didn't change the meaning of the image, it just strengthened it's 'artfulness'
from my, perhaps limited, knowledge of the work of W. Eugene Smith, he did not 'overly' or regularly use manipulations as this article may infer
the example image shown - i doubt it is the same image manipulated, more likely a cut and paste job of several images taken at the same time, with the same content
question is, does the 'manipulation' change the meaning of the image?
All photography is manipulated, in the nature of things, even 'real' B+W. We choose where to point the camera, when to release the shutter. Then we crop, dodge, burn... That's before you consider the possibility of staged pictures.
I have shot propaganda for the Tibetan Government in Exile -- they need all the help they can get until the Chinese get out of Tibet -- and while everything I shot really happened, I obviously shot to show the Tibetans in the best light.
A lot depends on the captions, too, and the Chinese are masters of flatly dishonest captions. You know the sort of thing: 'So and so is starving because of the greedy oppressive lamas' whereas they're starving because Chinese immigrants are getting all the food.
My own inclination is to treat ALL photographs as propaganda, making due allowance for the source (right-wing newspaper, left-wing newspaper, newspaper afraid of offending advertisers...) and to use one's own pictures the same way. Then it becomes a question of how far you trust (or want to believe) the photographer as well as the journal in which his pictures appear.
But I'd still draw the line at 'comping' pictures together or similar heavy digital manipulation: to use Terry Pratchett's words, that's pissing in the fountain of truth.
I don't see what's wrong with altering photos in ways that doesn't alter the content. After all your eyes do it. See a white piece of paper illuminated by an incandescent bulb? The light it's reflecting into your eye isn't actually white, but your brain edits it to appear white.
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If this was a news photo, I'd be damned. But for tabloid magazines, it looks like this is a common practice, and I have no problem with it.
I think in the past, journalism was generally held to a higher standard, but today, with the rampant yellow journalism and blantant presentation of misinformation, anything goes. Journalism has, in my mind, has sacrificed its credibility for ratings. A fine example is the altering of the image used in the article. This alteration changed the entire message: the soldier no longer appears passive, but aggressive, the people appear not to be being observed, but rather warned. An image that did not happen was presented as fact - in effect, a lie. Even if it happened, and the photographer was not there to catch the moment, what is presented is their interpretation of what might have happened.
In the artistic world, it is up to the us, the artists, to decide how present the ideas we wish to present to our audience. In journalism it is the responsibility of the reporter to present the facts as best they can be presented without bias or interpretation. Yes, I understand that everyone interprets what they see through the filter of their own life experiences, and that cannot be helped, but photographs offer the ability to present the scene, as it happened, to the viewer so that they can make those judgements. While the photographer can choose which images to capture and which to present, in effect choosing how to present the event, they still are presenting a scene that happened. Dodging and burning are one thing, they do not change the content - cutting and pasting, either on the computer or in the darkroom, are completely different, they change the content of what is presented into something that was not there.
As Firecracker stated above, tabloids have no credibility, they are assumed to be fiction, but news outlets are the only source of information for most people of the happenings outside their personal experience, and therefore need to be as credible as possible. They have the responsibility to present as unbiased a product as they can, and the people recording events, be it in words or images, have the responsibility to capture the essence of the event without editing what happened any more than absolutely required.
Sorry for the rant, but journalistic integrity is something I feel strongly about.
Last edited by reellis67; 05-24-2006 at 08:50 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Analogue may not be entirely accurate but it is a damn sight closer to the truth than digital!
There's a very good article on W. Eugene Smith's use of creative darkroom techniques in special issue #11 of _Photo Techniques_--_Mastering the Black and White Fine Print_. Many other good articles in that issue as well.
Originally Posted by Ray Heath
I agree - that's where I got my start. But yellow journalism is nothing new. William Randolph Hearst built an empire on it and some of his misleading stuff actually found its way into some history texts. Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders' charge up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War is a prime example. They arrived in Cuba without most of their horses since they couldn't arrange transport so their 'charge' was on foot - right behind the 9th and 10th Cavalry. But it was more fashionable (and better newspaper sales) to tout the adventures of a poorly trained bunch of civilians to the embarrassment of the US Army than to tell the truth about the success of all black army units.
Originally Posted by reellis67
In journalism, pictures are tools to tell a story - they can be used to enhance the telling of the facts or they can be used to tell lies.
Last edited by Lopaka; 05-24-2006 at 09:51 AM. Click to view previous post history.
"I always take a camera, That way I never have to say 'Gee, look at that - I wish I had a camera'" -Joe Clark, H.B.S.S.