Digital Manipulation in Photojournlism

ash_rae

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Hey guys,

I am a photography student at a small college in Tennessee. For my composition class we were to write an essay about a topic in our major and extend our audience past the walls of our classroom. It would be greatly appreciated if you would take a few minutes and read about my topic and post your thoughts and opinions about the subject. Thank you in advance for your time and here's to a good discussion!

These days more and more things are going to a digital format, and obviously photography has a rather large digital market. In my research I found an interesting article by Barbara Savedoff. In her article she stated that,

"The enhanced manipulability of photographs that results from the applications of digital technology must ultimately change the way photographs are used - whether in journalism, law, or other areas. As it becomes more common to digitize photographs and use digital cameras, and as it becomes easier to alter these digital images to reflect whatever scenarios we might dream up, the documentary usefulness of photographs is severely diminished."

I also cited specific examples of instances where manipulated photographs have caused a ruckus - like the Allan Detrich case (digitally altered photograph of the Bluffton University baseball team was printed on the front page of the Toledo Blade) that happened in 2007 and the case of OJ Simpson covers that Newsweek and Time magazine published back in 1994 (the magazines used the same cover photograph but the Time cover had clearly been altered).

So what do you guys, a community of photographers, that work in both digital and traditional formats, think about the rise of digital effects in regard to photojournalism? Can digital photography be used as evidence or as a way of recording exactly what happened at a specific time or place and hold its credibility? The National Press Photographers Association has set guidelines that photojournalists who choose to join their Association must follow, but in the Detrich (a member of the NPPA) case if other photographers with the same photograph had not been at the event and had not also appeared on other front pages across the state of Ohio, he may have never been caught. It has been said that photographs don't lie, but is this digital format changing that concept?
 

saltface

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Long before computers, photographs were already lying. I'm too lazy to find any pictures right now but fake ghosts and fairies wound up in pictures in the 1800s.
People that will buy anything will continue to buy anything; whether it's a photograph, CSI: Miami (there was a study about how cop shows like this affect people's perceptions of real CSI), or printed in a book (somehow publishing makes things true).
Photographs are persuasion, just like everything else in a court case.
 

Village Idiot

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And there's almost always ways to manipulate the situation.

http://www.worldsfamousphotos.com/tag/vietnam

"General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon" Second photo down:
This picture was shot by Eddie Adams who won the Pulitzer price with it. The picture shows Nguyen Ngoc Loan, South Vietnam’s national police chief executing a prisoner who was said to be a Viet Cong captain. Once again the public opinion was turned against the war.

During the Fall of Saigon, Nguyen left Vietnam in 1975. He moved to Virginia and opened a pizza restaurant, but he had to give it up after his past had been disclosed to the public in 1991, with one patron writing “we know who you are” on a door in his restaurant. He died of cancer on July 14, 1998 in Burke, Virginia, a Washington, D.C., suburb.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nguy%E1%BB%85n_Ng%E1%BB%8Dc_Loan
wikipedia...If the damn page ever loads... said:
The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths...What the photograph didn't say was, 'What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American soldiers?[3]”

Eddie Adams later apologized in person to General Loan and his family for the damage it did to his reputation. When General Loan died, Adams praised him as a hero of a just cause:

“The guy was a hero. America should be crying. I just hate to see him go this way, without people knowing anything about him.[4]
 

Overread

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photography, like any form of communication - is always open to different interpretations and manipulations of the truth. At the end of the day its out to tell a story or share an experience/sight - what is exchanged depends upon what the photographer wants to exchange.
In the past they did this with image manipultion and also with scene manipulation - today I think the digital "crutch" means that scene manipulation is less needed than in the past.

Journalists are always portrayed as seeking the truth behind the lies - and the camera is seen as being foolproof evidence of such sights (the camera cannot lie). However nothing stops a person from lieing with words and an image - ergo its down to the honesty of the photographer in question as to the accuracy and validity of the photo shown.
 

Overread

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yah - today I think we have lost the art of journalism and are now in the age of media spin - but that is a whole other topic
 

ksmattfish

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It has become much easier to create fiction with photos, but it's always been going on. The manipulations possible in photographs aren't much different than the manipulations of reality and truth in print media. The difference is in the awareness the general public has. When reading the news they are aware that it could be complete fiction, but there are ways of judging the reliability of the source. In the past the general public didn't have a good understanding about what was possible in the darkroom, and they naively thought photos equaled reality and truth. Today the general public has an awareness that photographic fiction is just as possible as written fiction. Faked/fictionalized photos probably happen more often these days, but at the same time I think they are being caught more often too.

"People say photographs don't lie, mine do." -David LaChapelle
 

craig

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Reminds me of an early hoax centered around a manipulated photograph:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cottingley_Fairies

Interesting story behind it which was the subject of one of my middle school papers.

Seems to me they made a movie of this. The name escapes me (of course). Ten bucks says we will never hear from the original poster, but I have to say the topic is deserving of a thesis. There is basically no truth in photography. Certainly not in Photojournalism. It may come close in evidence photography.

Love & Bass
 

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