David Hume Kennerly / Getty Images
The Sept. 14th Newsweek cover line — “Is Your Baby Racist?” — should have included a sub-head, “Is Dick Cheney a Butcher?”
So starts David Hume Kennerly in a blog post on the New York Times’ site concerning a photo of his of Dick Cheney that had been cropped to create a far more insidious vision than the original image suggested.
Yup, it’s another post about photojournalism, which is apparently becoming the biggest topic I didn’t realize I was interested in. In this case, I think Mr Kennerly is clearly viewing this right when he gets outraged about what was done with his shot. Instead of a nice family dinner, good old Dick gets cropped out and stuck under some editorial commentary about interrogation as he slices meat. Mm-mm manipulation.
OK, so, I hate Dick Cheney (or at least his politics and effect on the US during the Bush admin), no doubt. I get a nice giggle out of him being the meat slicer. I am 100% for using photos to lie. But only when lying was the intent.
Given that the intent of the original is quite clearly to document the Cheneys in a domestic setting, I’m going to have to rule this a black flag. You get’em, Mr. Kennerly, raise hell.
Original Article, With Before and After Pics (via NY Times)
So, I’m not a fan of the argument that altered photographs aren’t photographs, but photo-illustrations or some other nonsense. Photography is the act of recording light, and lying about it makes it no less photography than writing fiction makes traditional writing a different beast. The medium remains the same, the intent changes is all.
I’m a notorious photo tweaker. I don’t release a shot that hasn’t seen a stint through Lightroom, and Nick gives me crap over my tendency to do light retouching to any of our more fashion-oriented shots. But, it’s not because I want to pander to a world that idealizes women and bodies to the point of obsurdity, but rather to fulfill a basic baseline of expectations as to what a photo of that type is. An evil, sure, but a minor one.
The real argument for me about photo-doctoring and it’s negative impact comes from the world of photojournalism, and within that sphere I do finally take a stand ont he side of not doctoring. Using photographs to create a visual world of empty spaces and whatever else I’m trying to convey in a gallery is one thing, editing wedding photos (weddings being such creations of fantasy already that the notion of calling untruthful on them seems to verge on irony), is one thing, editing in, say, a successful missile launch to inspire fear in an America at war, well now, that’s a different beastie, you ask me.
So, if you want to read the first decent article I’ve read on photo manipulation in the digital age and how it’s eroding our trust in the photograph (and about time, too), check out this post over at IEEE Spectrum: http://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/software/seeing-is-not-believing/0 (found via Conscientious, natch.)