Saturday, August 12, 2006

Excellent post on the non photo scandal

Jim Lewis nails it.

'Two days ago, the AP got caught sending out a crudely—and nonsensically—altered photo of an Alaskan oil pipeline worker; last month, the Charlotte Observer fired a photographer for changing the color of the sky in a picture of a firefighters; the same week, the Spanish-language edition of the Miami Herald acknowledged that a picture of prostitutes in Havana had been cobbled together from two different shots; in 2003 the Los Angeles Times sacked a photographer for combining two pictures from Iraq, taken moments apart, into one. In fact, it's beginning to look as if every major institution that prints photos has printed doctored or manipulated photos: Time and Newsweek, the New York Times and USA Today, Harvard University and Science magazine, and the 2004 Bush campaign. (There's a good rogue's gallery here.) Some of these were quite serious attempts to mislead the public, and some were relatively trivial, but all of them undermine the public's trust in the reality of photographs. And so much the better, because that trust is badly misplaced....What, after all, do we believe when we believe that a photograph is true? That it mimics what we would see with our own eyes, if we were standing where the camera was placed? But a camera sees quite differently: For one thing, to take only the most obvious features, photos are rectangular, whereas the human eye's visual field is an ovoid blob. Moreover, "normal" vision is roughly equivalent to what you get from a 35 mm camera lens set somewhere between 42 mm and 50 mm zoom. Anything longer than that shows details no human eye could see; anything shorter shows an unnaturally broad vista. And cameras are notoriously crude when it comes to dynamic range: Highlights get blasted and dark areas become muddy. Can we countenance using Photoshop to draw otherwise invisible details out of shadows (a correction it can make almost magically, with two mouse clicks), so a photo better approximates what an eyewitness would have perceived? How far can we take this? What about using zoom and contrast enhancement, Blowup-style, to reveal elements that would be lost to the naked eye? Should that be prohibited? As far as I can tell, the news world's answer is, "Maybe. Sometimes." Then maybe we should ban photos taken through microscopes. And so you see how quickly this criterion fails.'

I would really have thought that after 25 years of the attack on 'realism' by French post-structuralists amongst many others, we would all have realised by now that photographs do not in any sense provide a neutral 'window' into the world. All photography is selection, is artifice. And all photographers do it. Get real.


At 9:41 PM, Blogger noserubber said...

BS - all of that is goalpost moving - hezbollah fakes photos, PERIOD, you dumb cunt

At 6:26 PM, Blogger aaron said...

The problem with photography is not that it is biased (all news is biased), but that it presents a snapshot of one instance of a story. A picture of a family standing in front of a ruined house in lebanon does not give us any reliable information about the broader impact of the conflict.

At 8:48 PM, Blogger littlemissprincess_86 said...

I love the way noserubber and his/her fellow mouth-breathers get their collective dress over their head about this - the Hezzers probably learned everything they need to know about propaganda from the US in Iraq.


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