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Wednesday, 24 June 2015


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Am I missing something here? The show is about 150 years of manipulated photographs and we're worried about a drop-off in standards? How can things get worse?

[The difference is in the acceptance of the standards themselves. It's one thing to know a rule and break it, it's another thing to think the rule doesn't matter in the first place. --Mike]

I'm surprised to learn that Phillip Leonian is still around. (But then, I'm sometimes surprised that I'm still around!)

In the 70's before Photoshop there were some heated discussions about the ethics of "hand of god printing".
One of the masters of this type of burning and dodging was my hero W. Eugene Smith. To me his work always drifted back and forth across the line between journalism and art. I once owned a book of Smith's that had the contact sheets from some of this most famous essays.
It presented serious food for thought for any photographer, in or out of journalism.
The book got lost in our most recent flood but the questions it raised still linger.

What percentage (if any) of publications and website use software that detects manipulation of submitted editorial photos? How easy is it to detect manipulation of jpgs, as opposed to RAW formats?

Apropos of nothing, I wonder how many of today's Sports Illustrated photographers can afford to "live in a terraced apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side, overlooking Central Park"?

[I suspect his wife was wealthy, if the online info about the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation is anything to go on. --Mike]

This would be interesting to see, if only to confirm what is old is new again. Unfortunately I am on the other side of the continent.

If you have not seen this yet, it is timely for your artical:


I have a little novel called Hall Of Shame. It is a very entertaining Victorian book about schoolgirls and how to bring them up proper, and how to discipline them when they misbehave, with emphasis on the latter.
This kind of book seems very popular in these parts, I was never quite sure why.

Journalism, especially as practiced by the New York Times, has for years been much more about opinions than facts. It's no surprise that it has trickled down into photographs. Mr. Estrin, being a long time photographer turned editor of the NYT, is as much a part of the problem as any other editor of that less than august institution who's employees dance to the tune of their master.

...and, bang on cue

Many of the photos are propaganda. The added Iranian missile is straight propaganda from a government source. Sorta like "Triumph of the Will."

Baltimore burning is Fox News pushing their conservative anti-black politics (this is the reason that they are called Faux News by some).

Child with gun in front of Arabian Foods, shows anti-Muslim bias.

Blackened O.J. is just plain stupid. Every man, woman and child in the US of A had seen him sprinting through airports on TV.

The National Geographic cover is not much different than a fashion magazine 'shopping a models skin.

For the most part, nothing is objective. Advertising certainly isn't. Pundits of the Right and Left, analyzing the same news, and coming to a different conclusion (someone's gotta be lying). The list goes on ...

If there is a problem with photography and image manipulation, then it is not that photographs can easily be manipulated, but that it is impossible not to.

Eeven photographers constantly forget that photography itself is not reality. Photography is not real, it is surreal. There is no landscape inside the little box behind the lens. There are no tiny people in there, no worlds, no skies.

Inside that little box there is machinery for converting the real world into something fake. Dreams, hopes, nightmares, convulsions of consciousness, mendacities, and endless tides of visual drivel, sometimes rising to the level of being fleetingly interesting, but always not real.

To hate image manipulation is to hate photography itself.

Anyone who wants truth has to realize, ultimately, that there is none. The closest we can ever come to truth is a consensus: to agree to define a given statement, image, or process as being true, quit talking, and get on with the rest of life.

Stephen McMennamy says it well: http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2015/06/stephen-mcmennamys-combophoto-mashups-result-in-humorous-juxtapositions/

And, of course, it's good click bait. Good job there.

I find a couple of those photos interesting in that, clearly, the "news" portion wasn't altered at all. The altered photo is in no meaningful way less true than the unaltered one, in several cases.

And yet we see the Grey Lady sternly "severing ties" with these miscreants (what does that even mean?).

There's a lot going on here, and a lot of people with different ideas, but at least part of what is going on is that the News is maintaining their illusion of impartiality by being Very Strict. It's not like the editor can't make any story up they like using the permitted tools (selection and cropping, say).

Now when someone says 'the NYT is simply fabricating a narrative here' they can come back with 'No no! Look! We severed ties with that one guy when he photoshopped out something irrelevant! Look how honest we are!'

"The article assumes the show will be controversial. I don't see why."

Sounds more like an attempt at marketing manipulation in the hope that people will think a lot of recycled images are somehow new and startling.

I'm not saying anything about the premise, only that it's recycled "news".

Will the Photography of Brian Williams be included?

A god contest topic might be to submit two photos one of which is altered to show an entirely different idea or point of view. Let's see how well it can be done if we really want to manipulate to our heart's content.

I am baffled by Mr. Kamber's suggestion that the reason for these manipulations is because "photography is a lot more democratic today". Democracy (in my world) is all about truthfulness. Truthfulness is not why the images are being manipulated.

Bob McAnally and Robin P posted a link to a LuLa article. This brings up the questions of lens filters and film choice.

I know that I've seen darkened skies in B&W National Geographic photos. Could be an Orange or a Red filter, on maybe it was film choice. Were there any documentary photographers who used Orthochromatic film?

What about PJs, did they use colored filters, back in the B&W era? How about polarizing filters to remove the glare from either water or window panes?

Color films all have their own look. Ektachrome didn't look like Velvia. Agfa's film didn't look like either Fuji's or Kodak's.

Today's digital cameras allow you to use custom presets to alter color, saturation, sharpness, etc, etc. Reality may enter the lens, but not necessarily the memory card.

Where do you draw the line?

I've always found the New York Times to be one of the more consistently high quality newspapers, and I've been a reader for forty or so years. I didn't say always right ( or left as the case may be) or that we always agree. Also, the NYT is not the only newspaper I read - just the most consistent quality and depth of reporting. The institution is clearly not perfect, and neither are their reporters - they just try to maintain a high standard. The fact that their reporting may disagree with the somewhat ... shall we say "truth deficient" popular media doesn't mean they're going to row in the same canoe. Having an opinion is not a crime - and their "opinion pages" are clearly marked. Reading a decent newspaper that may consistently disagree with those who'd prefer an uninformed public, is one of our rights ..... just as it may be your right to fill your brain with propaganda from your preferred source. I prefer freedom of the press - and the freedom to criticize the press.

There is far more falsehood in the staged media event, such as Bush strutting around in a flight suit in front of a "Mission Accomplished" banner (which they then claimed falsely had been spontaneously erected by the ship's crew).

Compared to deliberate propaganda such as that, most Photoshopping is a very minor sin indeed.

The lie is really about the photographs that are not taken. I mean not just those we do not take but those that we are forbidden. It is the photographers who get government(or company) clearance to photograph and who end up as an extended PR department. It was not always like this.

In photojournalism there is a big difference between altering emphasis with a bit of dodging and burning and the practice of adding, removing or replacing elements of the original.

I had a show a year ago at the Brooklyn Public Library that included some "straight" news photography from the 40s 50s and 60s.

The blue retouching reproduces as white in the newspaper if you wonder what you are looking at.

Of course cropping can be more misleading without any manipulation at all.

Nothing to do with Photoshop.

A case can be made that the camera always lies by omission and inference, and it is up to photographers to correct or at least expose those lies.

One of the photographers "shamed" by this show is Chris Anarde https://www.flickr.com/photos/arnade/. He's a documentary photographer who tells stories about people who suffer from the illness of drug addiction. Here's his story about being included http://arnade.tumblr.com/.

I'm biased. I've been following him for more than three years in Flickr and have been profoundly moved by both his stories of addiction in New York and his own personal journey in that time.

I think the behaviour of the curator in this case is despicable. I'd be interested in an unbiased opinion.

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