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Friday, 10 October 2008


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I generally watch CNN over coffee to get my morning news fix. This morning there was a pundit waving around a copy of the Newsweek cover saying that is was obviously manipulated. This pundit indicated that the image had been over sharpened, a "digital technique", she said, in order to render the pores and facial hair in greater detail.

Will these photographers never learn? Only use soft focus lenses when shooting instant celebrities or instant national politicians for that matter. Just make sure to over sharpen the close up shots of central bankers. We need to see them sweat. Got to keep your priorities straight.

That's just Fox being Fox. A pitbull without lipstick.

See, this happens when they try to humanise politicians.

Don't show them as what they want to be perceived - average [wo]man on the streets, hockey mum, Joe Six-Pack* -, show them as plastiky demi-gods without any hint of humanity in them. They do not have pores, hair, wrinkles, a teint. Only lipstick.

*BTW, does this refer to abs of tins?

The point is NW always shows Dems, this time Obama, looking stately and, to borrow from Chrissy Matthews, debonair. They always make Reps look snide, dark and otherwise old. It's called propaganda.

With all due respect, I think you're seeing through a filter, where the absence of the propaganda you desire is seen as propaganda the other way. Look at the RNC cover from the SAME SHOOT as the Palin cover. Look at the Mitt Romney cover. Nothing snide or dark about either one. If McCain isn't presented as "presidential" on the RNC cover, then I don't know how it could be done. (You can see it at the PDN link in this post, at the bottom of their post.)

Mike J.

News and public affairs used to be serious stuff.


If something is shown as it is, then it is biased. If it is manipulated to be more favourable, then it is not biased.

This isn't new, but I don't recall it ever being so blatant.

Crikey - if I had skin that good, I'd want all my photos to be high-res close-ups.

A link in the PDN article led to a series of Time ane Newsweek covers. Time had one of Obama, one of McCain and one of Palin. Newsweek had one of Obama/Biden, one of McCain/Palin, and one of Palin alone.

If the Democrats were Republicans, they'd be up in arms over the elite liberal media not giving equal coverage to Joe Biden.

Can this blog be one of the areas on the Internet NOT covered in politics and partisan sniping? I come here for Photo related talk, not politics. Thanks.

I was once hired to take some photos of some democratic candidates for a conservative publication. I was surprised to receive a "bonus" because, as they put it, the photos were so unflattering. I did not intend to provide an unflattering photo.
In the greater scheme of things, Palin is no longer a beauty queen and should not be treated like one. Even if putting a realistic photo of Palin on the cover of Newsweek was an intentional "slap in the face," it is nothing compared to accusing someone of "palling around with terrorists." We need some perspective.

Well maybe Fox is complaining because someone else in his business just publishes real/true news. They've just forgotten how it's done or how it feels like when you do it. But it is something new indeed: to complain because somebody is portrayed as he/she really is! Couple of years ago there was quite an interesting poll by a US university on the effect of information. They checked public perceptions in relation with viewing habits: About 90% of the Americans who got their news on Fox were convinced that Sadam Hussein had blown the Twin Towers. They really do a great job at Fox!

Wow. You mean politicians have skin pores and facial hair?

That would mean they are... actually... human?

Mike, I hadn't heard about Fox distorting the photos of the NYT reporters. Any chance you can post a link?

Interesting that the PDN writer is so quick to defend Newsweek, saying they rarely alter a cover photo. In my photojournalism classes we always look at the OJ photos on Time and Newsweek. If you remember Newsweek used that issue as an opportunity to say how pure they were, and how bad Time was. Then a few years later along comes the cover shots of the quintuplet laden McCauley's. Their portrait, like that of OJ, appeared side-by-side on the newsracks on both Time and Newsweek. Different photographs and photographers, but same idea.

Only this time, Time had left lady McCauley's poor dentition alone. But Newsweek decided to do a little whitening and straightening to give her a set of pearly whites.

No one is pure in this business, I am afraid. And much of what is done is impossible to detect. Or not. I emphasize to my students that if you manipulate a news photo, and get caught, the reputation you lose is gone forever. Somehow, though, we are stuck with those who think covers are "illustration" and thus can be mucked with. All in all a dangerous mind-set for keeping photography at all believable in the journalistic world.

Your totally right there should be no retouching of any kind. But when you consider the source........Newsweek.....it all becomes clear on what they are trying to do. As far as CNN or should I say the "Clinton News Network" it easy to see them for what they are too. I thought I liked this sight....until now.

Jim's correct Mike!

Go over to Parry's own site and look at the Obama portrait, he looks like David Palmer in that one, yeah, that's a Fox reference for you too!

This shot's nothing more than "a sows ear out of a silk purse" photographically speaking!

Draw your own conclusions as to why they used it........


But, What about artistic interpretation? Should the artist ignore his art and perceptions to create an image that meets the norm or the expectations of a constituency. I, for one, hope not.

Good art (and I class photography in that category) is by definition controversial- it needs to define boundaries that have not been explored previously.

By selecting an artist or a personality, the sitter who is expecting to derive benefit from the session must expose their self perception and subsume that ego to the artists' perception. The sponsor must take his/her chance on the results. It can be a felicitous experience- it might also not be one. Photography, by dint of its methodology, is not exempt from this process. Without the filter of the artist's perception, we have a flawed realism and certainly not art. It's the synergy of sitter and artist that creates an image that may transcend its parts.

Kipling supplied a dictum that might apply- let's keep it in mind.

Forget the Photoshop stuff, there's a big difference between a full-face headshot taken from 3 or 4 feet away and a half-face macro from mere inches away. This photo is a deliberate attempt to make Sarah Palin look threatening or "in your face". Don't believe me? Show me a similar macro close-up of Obama or Biden.

"Can this blog be one of the areas on the Internet NOT covered in politics and partisan sniping? I come here for Photo related talk, not politics."

That's hardly fair. The subject of the post is DIRECTLY related to photography, how it is used, and how it is perceived. Are you suggesting that if an important piece of photography-related information has a political component, I should ignore it?

Unfortunately, politics is a part of life. Life is the subject of photography. Some of the topics and stories I publish are going to have political aspects or be directly related to politics. I'm not going to avoid them just because of that.

Mike J.

"Mike, I hadn't heard about Fox distorting the photos of the NYT reporters. Any chance you can post a link?"



Mike J.

Scott D.,
You're DEFENDING that lame Fox piece? Seriously? That wouldn't have passed muster in any Journalism 101 class in the country. It wouldn't have gotten past the first meeting in 99% of the newsrooms in the country. And up until maybe 15 years ago, any reporter responsible for putting it on the air would have lost her job over it.

Mike J.

1. Joe Six-Pack precedes Nascar Dad as a tag for work class white males.

Oh, hell, what's the beef? She's still hotter than Biden, even with a few wrinkles.

Sorry to be back on this, I am prompted by some of the comments. I watch CNN and Fox here on cable. I find it hard to believe that anybody takes Fox seriously. It's propaganda, of the heavy handed type. The problem with sectarian media is that they cover themselves by spreading suspicions on other media, and try very hard to make their audience believe that they are like everybody else. And most of its audience does buy it.

The way I see it, men in politics (and in portrait photography in general) are shown typically in high contrast photos with lots of texture and gravitas to highlight their masculinity (a trait we are prejudiced to see as strength and power). To show Palin otherwise, with the feminine stereotype of softness, and unlike the other candidates would be sexist. I think Newsweek held her to the same photographic standards men are groomed under, and that's 21st century equality that we frequently don't see. I don't think of it as political bias as much as a correction for sex bias.

Come on folks find a little common ground. CNN and Fox are apologists for one political party or another. Both paint the picture they want you to see and hold the news they want covered up. How much coverage did CNN give to Rev. Wrights comments? How much did Fox report on McCain's flip flops in policy. We deserve much better politicians than the system feeds us. Much better. How about a sensible third party that actually works for the people? What a concept.

Re-read your article, Mike. Yes, the article is somewhat photography related, but your subject is obviously alleged hypocrisy at Fox News. It annoys many of us when you use the pretext of writing about photography to take a shot at those you disagree with politically. I know it's your blog, and you can write about what you want on your blog, but your political views are not what the O.P. faithful come to read about.

In fact I love to read Mike's political commentary especially as it relate to photojournalism.

I'll second Jim Metzger's comment.

Back again (that's the problem with politics!):

John Roberts: I would hardly charachterize Mike's text as dealing withh hypocrisy. From what I read,I understand the subject is professional deonthology. Or the lack of it.

Emmjay: As a graduate in journalism I was schooled in the ethics of the job. IMHO CNN and Fox are worlds apart if you measure their daily practices with the generally accepted rules of the profession. CNN reports the facts clearly, separates them from opinion, inference, prediction, guesses,etc.They have commentators from both parties. On the other hand, Fox passes opinion as news, lies on the facts knowingly, and in general have no respect for the truth. They will report events hiding the part they don't want you to know. And this is not an innocent issue, or something confined to an argument in the comments section of Mike's blog. That behaviour destroys people's lives, provokes anger, irrational responses, resentment, and make life more difficult for everybody.

I must also say that I do enjoy Mike's political rants, and I even used to read his other blog, and I don't find much of that lately on The Online Photographer. I miss it,but I understand his choice.

By the way, I would reccomend to anyone interested in journalism, Fox, american media, etc. to watch Outfoxed.It's an interesting documentary on the subject.

" I know it's your blog, and you can write about what you want on your blog, but your political views are not what the O.P. faithful come to read about. "

Well, it is one of the things that make it interesting, and one of the reasons I like it and keep visiting it. So I third Jim's comment.

To learn the innaccuracies in the statements of your candidate's opposition, go to:


If you are going to read thoroughly rather than selectively, though, take a deep breath before you do. You will see that no candidate has a monopoly on truth.

Being media-fed is not the same as being well read.

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