How important is truthfulness in photography? In photojournalism at least the importance is obvious. A photograph, as Susan Sontag writes in her essay In Plato’s Cave (On Photography, 1977), “passes for incontrovertible proof that a given thing happened.” Well maybe not so much nowadays, at least not exactly as it happened..
Manipulation of images isn’t a new thing of course but it wasn’t so easy in analog times, and there was always the physical negative to fall back on if required, unless it had been destroyed, in which case it may have called into question the authenticity of the printed image. With digital imaging and sophisticated and capable image editors today we are not so sure, and presumably it will only become more difficult.
Well, in this case , a well known photographer has apologized for the offending staff’s transgression (now there’s an excuse of I ever heard one..), however it led sleuths to discovering interesting things about some of his other photographs, such as people or objects being removed.
If a child has been removed from a photograph because it made for a more effective photograph does this mean that the event photographed didn’t happen? If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around…? I would say yes and no, but more precisely, the photograph has now portrayed a different reality of the event. Some might say that, well, the child could have been removed from the frame during the composition which is true but in that case that is exactly what should have been done.
Another interesting instance was this Nikon competition where a badly photoshopped image won, and led to all sorts of great fun! Some competitions now require the original RAW file to be presented together with the final image. In the future will there will be some sort of 3rd party authentication or guarantee for photographers selling prints perhaps?
The offending images may still have all the qualites of a beautiful photograph, the perfect Flickr algorythm, but they have lost their luster to those that know. Sacrilege! You can picture in your mind the owners of the artist’s prints upon hearing of this fiasco rushing to check the ones they have on the wall were unaltered “real” photographs. It brings a smile to my lips..
The episode does raise more questions about the ability to use photography for portrayal of “reality”. I say “more” because photography has been used to selectively manipulate opinion since day one. I suppose I am a bit of a cynic when it concerns the business that is the art world (art or Art?). “Legalized money laundry tis all it tis”, I can hear the wizened old guy say as he spits from his creaky rocking chair to the dusty road beside him, some of it landing on the edge of the porch, spittle clinging to his beard like morning dew..
The bricks of the Yellow Brick Road were not paved in gold, they were just painted yellow, and at the end of the road the Wizard of Oz turned out to be a just a man after all.
3F 7F 6F, cranny in Shibuya. Leica 3f / Summitar 5cm.
This image has only been adjusted slightly for contrast/exposure level and contains everything and nothing more (except pershaps some dust from the scanner that I missed..) that was in the camera’s viewfinder at the time of pressing the shutter;-)