How can readers figure out
what is reality and what is fake?
The logo of Martin Trailer Productions. Click the image to link to this professional photographer’s awesome web presence.
THE PUBLIC EDITOR’S COLUMN in Sunday’s New York Times jogged my conscience.
Margaret Sullivan addressed the issue of the integrity of news photographs. The ease with which imagery can be manipulated in Photoshop has made it ever so tempting for photographers to enhance their work before publication.
Should they be doing so?
“In news photography, manipulation of images is strictly forbidden. At The Times, such rules have been stated and vigorously enforced for many years,” Sullivan wrote.
But it is not as simple as that.
Sullivan went on to explore the fashion photography in the times Style Magazine. This is clearly a feature section; it is not news.
ARE THE STANDARDS DIFFERENT for something that is not meant to depict reality?
The answer, also, is not simple.
According to Sullivan, Style Magazine Editor, Deborah Needleman said that fashion magazines abided by different standards than news organizations do. In T’s fashion photography, she confirmed, “images are sometimes retouched.”
Although this might be a defensible argument, Sullivan goes on to point out that even the Style magazine is part of the total New York Times product.
“It would be best if all the photography produced by the Times newsroom could be held to the same standard,” she concludes.
The original image of Templo Exploratorio Del Santisimo Sacramento church in Guadalajara. © SGE, Inc.
WHICH BRINGS ME to my personal dilemma.
In my May 10 post here on this blog, “A visual feast awaits Guadalajara visitors,” I showcased some of the best photography taken on my April trip to Mexico’s second city.
Among the images was an exterior shot of the Templo Exploratorio Del Santisimo Sacramento church. I noted how much the architecture reflects the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.
What I did not disclose was that the image had been digitally altered.
I present here both the original and the published version.
The previous evening when processing these images I agonized over two issues: first whether the ultimate picture should be published at all, and second should it be disclosed that it had been digitally altered.
During the evening I consulted via email with the one person in the world whom I consider an authority.
Since we attended San Diego State University together in 1976, Marty Trailer has operated his own photography business in the northern suburbs of San Diego.
His clients include IBM, Frazee Paint, United Airlines, and a host of other well-known brands, including Women’s Wear Daily magazine.
The altered, published image of Templo Exploratorio Del Santisimo Sacramento church in Guadalajara. © SGE, Inc.
RESPONDING TO MY email titled “Did I cheat?” About image manipulation, Marty replied:
“RE: photo retouching. There are no real rules. Even the National Press Photographers Association, which used to allow major dodging and burning, does not allow it in PhotoShop.”
He went on to point out that things are changing so fast, the rules cannot keep up with the capabilities of the technology.
“The world is crazy,” he wrote. “At the turn of the (last) century it was done the hard way: shoot multiple negatives, large ones, different exposures and then CUT them up and put them back together and then make a print.
“Nothing has changed – just the tools and arbitrary rulings.”
As one very new to the art and science of image manipulation, I am thoroughly confused.
What level of alteration is acceptable? At what point is disclosure required?
How can the ethical rules possibly keep up with the explosive changes in technological capability?
In my view, at this point these questions are answerable.
What do you think the correct answer should be?
Post a comment below.