Tuesday, January 5, 2010

When photographs lie

There's nothing new about fake photos. They have been around since the dawn of photography, when tricksters and entrepeneurs used images such as this one of the Brown Lady of Raynham (a double exposure) to shock and amaze or to achieve fame or fortune.

In addition to numerous doctored photos of ghostly apparitions, a whole catalogue of pictures of questionable veracity has been produced over the years, including images of the Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot and modern-day dinosaurs, to name just a few (more of which can be seen in the Museum of Hoaxes's excellent photo archive). A more modern example of this type of overt photo hoax is this widely circulated image of the 9/11 "devil in the smoke".

New technology has made it easier than ever to alter and enhance images. Changes run the gamut from the sublime (making subjects look younger or thinner) to the ridiculous (as in popular applications like Elf Yourself ) to the deeply disturbing (as in the case of Time Magazine's June 1994 cover of OJ Simpson, in which Simpson was made to look darker-skinned and more menacing).

Today's editing software offers features that can truly enhance images, but the ethics of altering photos should always be foremost in every picture editor's mind. Why?

Because changing photos tampers with the truth.

Truth is the holy grail of the news industry, and to deliberately manipulate an image to show something other than what the photographer saw through his own lens is to tell a lie.

To be continued...

1 comment:

  1. Lucy, If truth is the Holy Grail of the news industry... then why is the news industry full sensationalist lies? The more I work in this industry, the more I realize never to believe a word I read in the papers or a thing I hear on TV........