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altering images: going too far?

check out this link (http://www.pdnonline.com/pdn/newswire/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1002914629) to a new story on pdn. staff shooter in the US fired for altering images. what’s interesting is that he has not changed the content of the picture (cutting/pasting etc), but manipulated it using ‘digital darkroom’ techniques, (esp color) ie: achieving similar results one would get from traditional darkroom work. is this offence worthy of dismissal? there’s obviously a history with that shooter and the paper, and he was reprimanded for alterations in the past, so probably so, but where’s the line drawn for adjusting contrast, color etc? are there different ethics applied to adjusting images shot as say, spot news or features?

by [a former member] at 2006-07-29 04:46:18 UTC (ed. Mar 12 2008 ) Hanoi , Vietnam | Bookmark | | Report spam→

It seems like an extreme responce. I wonder what the deal would be if he was shooting RAW and simply processing the images as he saw fit. Surely you musn’t be limited to the programs defaults when converting your images??

by [former member] | 29 Jul 2006 05:07 | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
Hey all he had to do was change the white balance in camera,spot meter on the sky and there is your unalterd image…. all this is stoooopid, maybe there is more than stated as the real story could be boring… AHHH dunno friggin wierd world we live in

by Imants | 29 Jul 2006 05:07 (ed. Jul 29 2006) | goannamanor, Australia | | Report spam→
interesting.presumably b&w photography is a sackable offence then?

by Michael Bowring | 29 Jul 2006 06:07 | Belgrade, Serbia | | Report spam→
Im still yet to see the point of his employers getting their knickers in a twist.

He boosted some colours to make the final image more appealing, gee take him outside and beat him with a old hosepipe.

Maybe his boss liked plain images?

by Daniel Cuthbert | 29 Jul 2006 08:07 | Bangkok, Thailand | | Report spam→
I’ve done a lot of shooting on infrared film…I suppose that would qualify me for cement shoes…!!! :-)

by Martin Mraz | 29 Jul 2006 10:07 | Prague, Czech Republic | | Report spam→
infra-red!! frequencies invisible to the naked eye!! that’s the devils work my friend.next you will be saying darwin was right.concrete shoes are far too good for your kind!

by Michael Bowring | 29 Jul 2006 10:07 | Belgrade, Serbia | | Report spam→
Those interested in this subject from an ethics point of view might want to look at this compilation of new organization viewpoints:


by [former member] | 29 Jul 2006 11:07 | Washington, DC, United States | | Report spam→
ethics shmethics a load of self rightious crap

by Imants | 29 Jul 2006 12:07 | goannamanor, Australia | | Report spam→
Im with imants….photography is in fact the altering of the moment, in service of something else (you fill in the blank for that that something is…..)…now, if i shoot myself in the bathroom and then sell the story as this: Brad Pitt visits Home of Photographers Bob and Marina Black, well that’s a different camel (and we all know how much i resemble said actor ;))) )….but, this kind of litany of “what should/shouldnt do” is pompous, self-serving and ultimately deceptive: photography is in fact about storytelling since we as a species need, for whatever reason (devine or narcissistic) to anthropomorphize this flaking, passing life….so much tripe, its funny….give me a good story interestingly told through our dishonest ways and means….songlines, songlines, songlines ;))))…b……give me Moriyama, give me the world’s objective PJ’s, give me Sherman, give me ghosts: its all the same rendering…we as photographers need to get off our highhorses and back into the dirt were we should belong (even it that’s Photoshopped mud ;))) )….the washingpost article to me is cliched banter, and disingenuous, because it suggests that photography/photographers are something that they are not, sterile and objective…..and that photography “records” the truth of things…

by [former member] | 29 Jul 2006 13:07 (ed. Jul 29 2006) | Toronto (home sweet), Canada | | Report spam→
This has been bubbling under for years, but now they’ve played their hand, and it’s WAR.

It’s the 21st century, but there is a committed hardcore of obsessives living amongst us with a dark vision of ‘traditional photography’ – using mechanical cameras and (shudder) black and white film (reflecting their medieval, monochrome, messianic view of the world of course) developed in noxious chemicals…obviously they’re secretly developing WMD chemical weapons technology and it’s only a matter of time (as little as 45 minutes…) before it reaches critical mass and they suffocate us all in a mushroom cloud of selenium toner.

Some say its because they’re poor and oppressed – Rubbish! Most of them are educated and middle class, but led astray by extremist ‘madrassa’ photo-colleges into following a nihilistic perversion of an art with a long peaceful tradition of landsapes and kitten-in-a-basket calendars.

Even now, in this enlightened digital age, they wish for a world where all photographers must cover their heads with photo-burkas and look at the world upside-down via 5×4 cameras made of (gulp)…wood and brass.

We CANNOT let them drag us back to the 1920’s. It’s a Clash of Civilisations and they must be stopped. If that means they’re all thrown into cages and beaten continually with rubber hoses? Hey, I can live with that.

As long as they get to keep a copy of Robert Frank’s ‘Americans’ in their cells, then it’s not torture, according to the US Attorney General.

by [former member] | 29 Jul 2006 13:07 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
maybe there are too “untruths” in my images
bisa berbicara bahasa chocolate box?

no foto
no foto
no foto
no foto
no foto
still spearing lab rats with the end of a broomstick
egons gekons is a wall creature…………the Washington Post his waste basket
but then
it’s a long time since I read Rilke,
or maybe I don’t care, so I may as well pawn my cameras, buy a backhoe and dig holes

by Imants | 29 Jul 2006 14:07 (ed. Jul 29 2006) | goannamanor, Australia | | Report spam→
Whilst i think some b&w images are great, i have 2 amazing eyes that see everything in glorious colour and if some old fart wants to tell me one more time how “colour ruined photography”, i may end up pushing him towards the retirement home quicker than he wishes

by Daniel Cuthbert | 29 Jul 2006 14:07 | Bangkok, Thailand | | Report spam→
To return to the original post. I want to remember that in the 50´s Eugene Smith altered his B and W negatives in the copy. An example similar to one of the pictures of the ex staff shooter of the Charlotte Observer is the one of a head of mental ill man (or woman, don´t remember). Smith burn to turn all around the head black to isolate the head like Patrick do with the portrait of two police men. Not to talk to the free use of ferricianide in several prints. In the classic essay of the Spanish Village Smith change the direccion of the eyes of the old woman in the picture of the dead old man. I think that burn and dodge or punch some colors don´t make damage to the photojournalism. I think that not publish some stories or manipulate the edition or captions to change or obscure some points do more harm. But like many factories the entreprise put the rules. So one have to make the choices for who work for.

by Hernan Zenteno | 29 Jul 2006 17:07 | Buenos Aires, Argentina | | Report spam→
“Changing colours is not ethical.”
please explain that statement,i find it completely nonsensical.firstly,there is not a camera,film or chip in the world that faithfully produce what the human eye sees and secondly,define ethical.

by Michael Bowring | 29 Jul 2006 21:07 | Belgrade, Serbia | | Report spam→
I agree with Michael…shooting B&W is “changing colours” much more intrinsically than twiddling with any saturation or colour balance sliders in Photoshop after capturing a digital image. And I’m not even talking here about B&W infrared, false-colour IR film, or shooting with ortho film to alter the tonal relationships in a given photo.

There has to be a large distinction made between using Photoshop to add/subtract elements in the photo such as the notorious “the commissar disappears” manipulations where Stalin’s fellow travellers disappeared from official photos as they gradually fell out of favour (WAY before the digital age was anything other than sci-fi), and tonal/colour manipulations in Photoshop that are analogues of basic darkroom procedures that have always been practiced to make images more puchy and appealing as the visual medium that they are…

I think that these rules are just knee-jerk politically correct reactions to otherwise justified concerns of easily achieved image manipulation in the digital age. But they’ve gone overboard in a conservative direction in laying down the ground rules…

by Martin Mraz | 29 Jul 2006 22:07 (ed. Jul 29 2006) | Prague, Czech Republic | | Report spam→
Time out everybody. There is a limit to what can be changed in a phot and still have it be considered a faithful presentation. Sure, dodging, burning and pushing in the film world were alterations of the vision as seen by the human eye, but the degree of change was nowhere what can be done with digital editors. You have to have limits and there needs to be standards. They should apply both to photographers and to editors. Look at what was done in one Miami publication did: http://www.miaminewtimes.com/Issues/2006-07-27/news/strouse.html The people responsible for that should be canned, even if the editorial positio of the paper is to toady up to the anti-Castro Cubans in South Florida.

We are taking about photojournalism. Photojournalism, at least the kind that I think Lightstalkers ought to aspire to, should be accurate. Sure, just like verbal journalism, it can have an attitude or present a point of view. But it cannot engage in major alterations of an image and still be true to the craft.

by [former member] | 30 Jul 2006 01:07 | Washington, DC, United States | | Report spam→
Time out…. Why? Limits and standards are made and used by those when it suits them! trying to force others to toe the line or else……sandbox stuff Photojournalism is part of a game played too often by editors, politicians and others of placing items out of context and environment to achieve a desired result often requiring one to engage in major alterations in its presentation. That is quite acceptable activity by these so called knights in shining armour the makers of ethics for photographs

by Imants | 30 Jul 2006 01:07 | goannamanor, Australia | | Report spam→
immants: i’ll help u dig the holes and shoot the geckos too ;))))))))))))….bb

by [former member] | 30 Jul 2006 02:07 | Toronto (home sweet), Canada | | Report spam→
I agree that there have to be limits and standards in photojournalism. The example of what the Miami paper did is clearly beyond these. But the rules stated in the original arcticle are nonsensical. Many of these papers state that cropping is acceptable (after all, why should layout editors have to work extra hard to include a great horizontal shot in their existing layout when they have a vertical “hole” to be filled and it’s so easy to slice and dice a picture. Right?) But there can be cases when cropping an image has a much more substantive impact on the “truth” of it than, say, altering the tone of the sky or pumping the saturation. The context of some images can be made to make an 180-degree about-face just by cropping out an inconvenient element. But that’s “allowed”….

by Martin Mraz | 30 Jul 2006 08:07 | Prague, Czech Republic | | Report spam→
its in the newspaper,it must be true.
does anyone,anywhere still believe that old chestnut?all this fuss about manipulating pics is a red herring.firstly,cases of photographers doing it are very rare.usually the culprit turns out to be an editor or art director.if newspapers want to regain their varying degrees of lost credibility then they should do some or all of the following-
-start by actually concentrating on news,not lifestyle,gossip,sport
-have editorial stances that are not influenced by their owners,advertisers and shareholders.
-maintain and nurture their own staff,rather than just hoovering up sensational images,often with an unknown provenance.
the way ahead is not through censorship or bloated ‘ethical’ rules.because who makes those rules? media everywhere has always been biased,from mild cultural bias to rampant political bias(now being replaced in many places by an ‘economic’ bias).the media is not,and should not,be a self appointed guardian of the publics morals.nor should governments/politicians/suits.

by Michael Bowring | 30 Jul 2006 09:07 | Belgrade, Serbia | | Report spam→
“a self appointed guardian of the publics morals” Sounds like a ideal job for me, yes me, me, me I, I me please pick me

by Imants | 30 Jul 2006 11:07 | goannamanor, Australia | | Report spam→
ok. but you have to promise to be quixotic,hypocritical,a turncoat,align yourself with vested interests,sell your self to the highest bidder and entertain us with the inevitable sex/corruption scandal at some point in your tenure.
and can i be ypur assistant,i assume the money is top dollar?

by Michael Bowring | 30 Jul 2006 11:07 | Belgrade, Serbia | | Report spam→
Those are the conditions required to enter the White House ,,,,,,please pick someone else,,,,,,,though with a surname like Krūmiņš I could fit the bill as the english translation is little bush.

by Imants | 30 Jul 2006 11:07 (ed. Jul 30 2006) | goannamanor, Australia | | Report spam→
you could put one of your geckos in the white house mate.i am sure no-one would even notice.do geckos like regurgitated pretzels?i hear there is a plentiful supply gathering dust under the sofas and rugs.

by Michael Bowring | 30 Jul 2006 12:07 | Belgrade, Serbia | | Report spam→
Hernan, that bit about Eugene Smith changing the direction of the eyes in the famous image of the wake from the Spanish Village essay is a canard, no es verdad. I have the print in my house, I can attest to its not having been altered in any way. That is bull. But he did burn in the surrounding area in the photo of the mad Haitian, though if you look at the original you will see that there is not much detail being suppressed anyway, Smith was just taking his cue from the original neg and pushing it a bit further. I see no problem with that. The real manipulation came with the famous picture of Albert Schweitzer where he inserted elements from another negative into the final print he made.

Look this argument has gone back and forth from the very inception of journalistic photography. You all may not remember this, but Arnold Rothstein caught hell fire for having photographed the skull of a cow on a parched earth and all he did was move the skull so the shadows would fall in an expressive manner. Gene Smith’s manipulation of Schweitzer is much more aggressive.

Limits, rules, well let me tell you that any limits you set are false and contingent. Black and white is already a betrayal of our sense of sight since the world is seen by in color; but color is no less a betrayal, and the images I see are either too pallid (a la po-mo mannequinist school of color photogrpahy that was all the rage inthe 90s) or too saturated and contrasty (a la Webb and the tropical light school). In either case I naturally see much more in real life with my own eyes, so any argument based on naturalism is simply faulty from the start. I dont buy the argument that black and white is passé just because color photography is newer and more naturalistic; on the contrary, I argue that both media are just that, media, representations, illusions, and as such I am free to manipulate them as I please in order to achieve what Gene Smith would have called truth in accordance with my vision, or honesty with myself and fidelity to my ideas. The argument that photojournalism must strive for objective representation, while it cannot be entirely discarded because of the role that photojournalism plays as a witness to events, is nonetheless a very problematic stance and is based on nothing more than mere convention.

Each of us then has to draw his own lines, while the orgs we work for draw theirs, and if you dont like where they draw the line, you will have to work elsewhere. I myself would not superimpose one image on another to achieve an effect, as Gene Smith did with Schweitzer, or Baltermants more famously did with his piercing image of grieving women on the battlefield, if that image were to be printed in a news magazine. But I might be tempted to do so if it were printed in a book of my own devising (that is, not a collection of works, but a book of my own work). I cannot honestly say, until the particular situation comes along. In most cases like this, where the rules are not clear and universal, we are forced to consider each case as it comes along. The case that gave rise to this thread was wholly unjust, by any standard if you ask me, but I suspect that Martin is right in his analysis of the motives.

by Jon Anderson | 30 Jul 2006 12:07 | a casa, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
“But look to all World Press Photo and Magnum or VII Books. They actually manipulate a lot the pictures.”
Hugo, that’s interesting.
Can you explain that?

by Agnieszka Rayss | 30 Jul 2006 13:07 | Warsaw, Poland | | Report spam→
before you even press the shutter button you’re making choices about how exactly you want the light entering your lens to play on the negative or to render in pixels. what is focus if not a manipulation of the visual image, not to mention framing, composition, exposure blah blah blah. photography is an artificial act from begining to end, whether you’re in magnum or your own bathroom. we’re all pirates basically. we might as well embrace that (or wallow in it). after all, who didn’t want to be a pirate at some point in their childhood?

by mark cunningham | 30 Jul 2006 16:07 | no fixed address, Canada | | Report spam→
I’m not sure which period of photographic history people are recalling— the past where everything was staged and nothing was genuine, or the past when those practices were pushed out of the boundaries of acceptability by the profession at large? I believe Smith was from a time when none of that mattered much. It’s extremely hard to believe Capa’s photo of a falling Spanish soldier is genuine when you see the second solder from the same roll falling in the the exact same spot, with identical dramatic body language (same clouds in the background etc.), yet no sign of the first one having fallen. The odds…

It’s true that an ideal has much in common with a prejudice—but in my opinion, on this topic, those who fling mud at the idealists are doing little more than dirtying themselves. Whoever wishes to jettison the concept of ethics really ought not be involved in photojournalism, to put it simply. There’s plenty of room over there with Pedro Meyer at Zone Zero.

And yes there is some heavy-handed post production going on with some of our favorite shooters in Magnum or wherever. Easy enough to tell, really. My first few years in Europe were rather an eye-opener, how much fabrication and staging happens here. There’s no shame in it, apparently. Perhaps because, to paraphrase Henry Kissinger, the stakes are so low.

by Dave Yoder | 30 Jul 2006 16:07 (ed. Jul 30 2006) | Milan, Italy | | Report spam→
“The argument that photojournalism must strive for objective representation, while it cannot be entirely discarded because of the role that photojournalism plays as a witness to events, is nonetheless a very problematic stance and is based on nothing more than mere convention.”

OK, Jon, I accept that notion, and think you have stated it well. I especially accept the middle clause. Photojournalism IS the witness to events, just as the scribblers are. And in both cases there is some license to filter the events through ones own perspective. But the license is not unbridled. Jayson Blair clearly did the wrong thing. So did Janet Cooke in an earlier era. So did the editors at El Nuevo Herald.

So there ARE limits in journalism, including photjournalism, that should not be exceeded. Defining them may indeed be problematic, I grant you, but that does not mean that one should not try. Indeed sometimes they may require a judgment by a publication, but there should be a range within which the judgment can be made rationally. Lots of things in organized society are problematic (like free speech), but we nevertheless try to achieve them.

Creative people obviously do not want any constraints on their creativity. But, I suggest that once a photographer begins working in the field of photojournalism, the extremes of creativitiy have to be harnessed. When I look at a photo from South Lebanon in my morning New York Times or Washington Post, I want to know that it conveys a fair image of what is really going on at that particular moment of time. That may not always have been what happened in journalism (whether it was Robert Capa or Eugene Smith — who knows), but it is what the expectation of the public is today.

I am not going to judge what happened with the Charlotte Observer staffer whose firing started this thread. I am just asserting the proposition that in photojournalism, there must be standards — perhaps imprecise ones, but standards nevertehless.

by [former member] | 30 Jul 2006 17:07 | Washington, DC, United States | | Report spam→
neal, i dont think anyone here is seriously suggesting there ought not to be any level of acceptable behaviour.i just think that some of us have a problem with with the senseless bandieing about of the word ‘ethics’.we are not doctors.the worlds we live and work are changeable,in flux,not always bound by the usual rules of conduct.if you try and parcel everything up in a neat little package of rules it just cant work,because the world is just changing too fast for that,and we have to be flexible and open to the changes that go on around us.a set of carved in stone rules and regulations therefore becomes a paradox,a direct contradiction of our roles.
for me the biggest problem with ethics is this.we have to rub shoulders with people and cultures that are often opposed or very different to our own.we have to communicate,digest and then put that information out there.which brings me to our second problem.we work for the media,an institution that is not exactly a paragon of virtue itself.
so,please,define a set of ethics that allow for constant change,and are unnafected by any religous,social,geographical,race,class,age,political etc,etc differences.even plato and his mates could not find the answer to that question,and they invented the concept!

by Michael Bowring | 30 Jul 2006 18:07 | Belgrade, Serbia | | Report spam→

how about this for an ethical foundation for journalism: A sincere attempt at honesty. That is the first test of objectivity.

I don’t see how pulling the world’s variables out of Pandora’s box negates the need for ethics. I’m not aware of a serious attempt to get everyone signed onto one definition of ethics, either.

I’ve seen this argument pop up now and then—there can be no perfect objectivity, therefore ethics are a failed theory. Fortunately that’s a flawed argument.

Nobody expects superhuman standards from humans. Just do your best to capture and show whatever story is unfolding in front of you. Don’t aim for the “bigger truth” that has gotten so many writers in trouble, just aim for the sliver of truth that you can catch.

by Dave Yoder | 30 Jul 2006 21:07 | Milan, Italy | | Report spam→
honesty is a good start. you could easily add respect, and an informed approach, to this list. you could just as happily, however, add belligerence and naivette and still end with a perfectly defensible set of ethical guidelines for your work, your attempts at documentation. for me the point that comes out of this is that ethics are an individual thing. this is not to say that society, or groups within it, do not share sets of ethics, but that the accumulated effect of coexisting and competing sets of ethics leaves each of us with our own uniquely formed ethical guidelines, be it for personal realtionships, the food we buy, or the photographs we take and then choose to share. so my point: if you’re committed to taking an ethical approach to your work, it matters little if you are unable to set and maintain a clear set of guidelines or rules that works for every situation, every time and place, let alone every other writer and photographer. and hell, if you consider the society that many of your ethics, no matter how well intentioned, may have been inherited from, what better case do we need to justify an ever changing set of ethics. i would say that a commitment to ethics is a commitment to change, whenever you deem it necessary. the best pirates always have a set of ethics, however idiosyncratic and flawed.

so, michael, there’s your constant change allowed for. as for your second clause: a set of ethics ‘unnafected by any religious, social, geographical, race, class, age, political etc, etc differences.’ surely an ethics unaffected by any of these things would be completely devoid of any relevance to our lives as human beings (even the rejection of these lables is a response to their existence). and give yourself some credit. plato is a midget compared to the shared wisdom of people in cyberspace.

and dave, the stakes are as low as we make them, or allow them to fall.

by mark cunningham | 31 Jul 2006 02:07 | no fixed address, Canada | | Report spam→
Hi folks. A fewer things. I read the affair of the Smith retouch in Let Truth Be the Prejudice, a paradoxical title. In this book incluse there are a reference to a Smith’s letter in that he talk about fix the eyes of the old woman in the first row. I know the manipulation in the picture of Schweitzer assignment. There are plenty of references about how Smith worked. But all that things and the one that begin this post have a relation with Smith philosophy, that is why I mention this few stories before. He thought that the compromise was with the truth. Ok, I imagine all the post about define what is the Truth. That is the question, what you think is honest, the best way to tell something. We must see the big picture. Smith purchase donations for built a clinic and help the damage ones from Minamata. Beneton used a picture about AIDS for publicity. The question is how the photography (or any other message) is used in the media and how it affect to the audience. Can one color change alter the reality or the lives of someone? What is the purpose for that change? Is a mere aesthetic change or alter a point of view about something really important? I insist, please we must see the big picture. All the media are process and like any other process we can’t have the control about how the message arrives to the audience. And more important, this audience are not idiot or empty. For some pictures one man in Afganistan can understand something different that one women in EEUU. We must to fix our honest limits accord the situations. And fight for the right use of these work. The rules of the enterprises are nothing to the rules of our conscience. This is, I think, the only standart. Saludos.

by Hernan Zenteno | 31 Jul 2006 03:07 (ed. Jul 31 2006) | Buenos Aires, Argentina | | Report spam→
well said hernan, and a much-needed completion to the circle. nobody can say that the photo-shopping done by the photographer is more a viloation of the truth than say, asking the firefighter to hold that pose (or get up the ladder in the first place!). and yet, had he merely done the latter (did he? does he? do I?), he’d still have his job. only he knows, and only he can truly whether his actions were dishonest or his dismissal justified.

by amit dahan | 02 Aug 2006 03:08 | toronto, Canada | | Report spam→
Come to think of it, I somewhat recently had the colors changed in a photo of mine to an equal degree by a very large newspaper most of you have heard of. I doubt any press operators of color lab techs would face any punishment at all, much less dismissal, over something like that. But then those word people do love dumping on us photographers, don’t they.

by Dave Yoder | 02 Aug 2006 13:08 | Milan, Italy | | Report spam→
Dave and Neal you both raise good points. As for the historical lineage of the argument, Rothstein’s fracas occurred when he was working for the FSA. I think that the standards were still being set at that time and there was probably some back and forth on the issue, with reactions being either too liberal or too harsh at any given moment because the lines had yet to be drawn clearly. Digital has forced us to redraw those lines yet again. I didnt mean to imply that ethical conventions are bogus just because they are conventional, not at all. There are no absolutes. Just wanted to clarify that the conventions are rather vague and thus problematic. It tickles me that Europe plays fast and loose while the US publications seem to be rather stricter in their interpretation. I think in Smith’s day the idea that truth lay in general or ideal types still prevailed, so photographers felt that if they captured a subject in a typical pose, you had somehow captured the truth, as opposed to merely circumstantial detail which is what you would get if you just snapped a candid shot at any given moment (the famous example being Smith’s posing of the weaver in the Spanish Village essay — he asked her to assume that pose, having seen her doing it the previous day, and he wanted to get the ideal form of a weaver). This was the same kind of thinking behind August Sander’s portrait series: the Baker, The Chauffeur, etc. Idealized types. But there was simultaneously the opposing idea, which reigns today, that truth lay in the everyday details, that ideal types were a holdover from another generation’s thinking, and that Modernity demanded something more fluid, more factual, and more circumstantial. I think Smith straddled both these ideologies and made use of them as it suited his purposes.

Digital makes everyone nervous because it is just so easy to manipulate an image past all recognition of the original file. In this particular case, apparently the color change was quite drastic. The photographer claimed that he underexposed the shot to get the silhouette just right and then had to readjust the color so that it would more adequately capture the original scene because that color had been lost in the underexposure. The color he came up with is radically different from the muddy grey present in the original file but according to him bears greater verisimilitude to the original scene. So is he being more or less faithful to the truth, and to judge that truth do we refer to the original scene which could not be adequately captured or to the original file which failed to contain all the “information”? Is our standard the scene itself or the representation of that scene as it is captured in a faulty medium? I am just trying to provoke a little thought on the subject and get people to realize that defining the conventions governing a photojournalist, whose job is to bear witness to the “truth,” is not at all an easy task.

For myself, I stick to one simple rule: I dont ask people to pose and I dont manipulate my images even when “accidents” or non harmonious elements, compositionally speaking, intrude on the scene. But that is not because of a belief in the value of objectivity. It is simply that for me the challenge and delight of documentary or PJ work is that I do not control everything, nor do I wish to. The image that results is a compromise between me and the object world, which stubbornly refuses to capitulate to my will. The surprise, the serendipity, the marvelous amplification in the narrative potential of the image that results is what makes the image, in my view, superior to anything I could have come up with on my own. As Arbus once said, “I have never taken a picture I intended. They are always better or worse.”

by Jon Anderson | 02 Aug 2006 14:08 (ed. Aug 2 2006) | a casa, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
i think you have illustratated the paradox here perfectly.you say your one rule is not to ask people to pose.you illustarate your point with a quote from arbus,who of course always asked people to pose.

by Michael Bowring | 02 Aug 2006 21:08 | Belgrade, Serbia | | Report spam→
I understand Jon paradox. Me too prefer to not pose people or set anything. But years ago i began to read and understand some things. Maybe I have to do the next step, I don t know. But I think all of us have to take all with a pinch of salt. We have to be more tolerant. I read sometime ago an interview with Luc Delahaye. I paste this words about this interview published by The Guardian: “Ten years ago, when I was still a photojournalist,” he explained, “I was beginning to confront the limitations of journalism. I asked extremely simple questions: what is a camera exactly? What happens when the shutter fires?” So, by way of a test, he gave clochards around the Gare du Nord 20 francs each to sit in photobooths and have their picture taken. Delahaye kept the pictures. His only act as a photographer was to put the coin in the slot.

What did he learn from the experience, I asked.

“Confirmation of what I already knew,” Delahaye replied. “That the recording process is a magical process. You see that when you leave the camera on its own.”

This kind of experimentation comes partly from a rejection of the Cartier-Bresson/Magnum tradition of photojournalism – the tradition of seizing the “decisive moment”, on the streets, on the battlefield – the kind of work that, in uncreative hands, can descend into sentimentality or bathos and, therefore, falsity.

Like I said before. I think all are in the integrity of our work. I prefer to not pose, not stage. But I admire some people that made this things, like Gene Smith or Arbus or Doisneau. And for third time I have to mention what I think is a important item. The process. All we have taken come in a process. Let think the process, the way and the purpose of the work and how it is saw by the audience. I have to write in english, so sorry if you not understand what i said. But i think is relevant this post. All that move to think of our work and what is one of the more important thing of us? Saludos gente

by Hernan Zenteno | 03 Aug 2006 19:08 | Buenos Aires, Argentina | | Report spam→
Sí, Hernan, estoy completamente de acuerdo contigo. Muy bien dicho. And it struck me as I reread this thread that Smith, for his purposes, was perfectly right too. what does it matter if he asked the weaver to pose — what truth did that violate exactly? and in fact, we have a perfect picture of a weaver that to this day satisfies our need to know what a spanish village was like in the 40s.

I do what I do in the way that I do simply because I find the process particularly challenging and fulfilling, not because of any putatively superior truth value. That I cannot claim. I am generally too much of a control freak, and I find that ruins images rather than makes them better, so I prefer to surrender control when I am shooting. I just get better pix.

Michael, you got me there, but the paradox was not intentional, as I wasnt really thinking about her MO, just the idea that control rarely leads to good results. Arbus asked people to pose, true, but I think she let them adopt their own poses as they saw fit in order to allow them to reveal themselves in unintentional ways. So she controlled the mise-en-scène but not the actor’s interpretation within the scene. That is not a bad way at all to go. Dont we all work like this to some degree? I mean when you are just creating a portrait, dont you often find yourself setting the mise-en-scène and then dropping the subject into it to see how they react?

by Jon Anderson | 03 Aug 2006 19:08 | a casa, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
Which reminds me of a very famous bit of manipulation. Avedon claims that when he took his picture of the duke and duchess of Windsor (was it that couple? I believe so), who appear thunderstruck in the photo, he sat them in front of his Rollei and announced to them that their dog had just been run over in the street.

by Jon Anderson | 03 Aug 2006 20:08 | a casa, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
i dont think a portrait,posed or not,can ever be wrong.i see nothing wrong in stopping someone in the middle of a riot,lets say,and directly asking them to look straight into the camera.i think a portrait taken under those circumstances can help to tell the story just as effectively as all the more chaotic,random scenes we capture.i dont see why the two cannot compliment each other.from the very beginning of photography there has always been one constant,one thing we always find fascinating.the experience of looking directly into someones eyes.
and jon,i was just winding you up about arbus,couldn’t resist it!

by Michael Bowring | 04 Aug 2006 00:08 | Belgrade, Serbia | | Report spam→
Probably in this digital time all is possible…. so, manipulate a picture is one of possibility that a photographer could have..
I think also that for a good ethic, a war or drammatic events that a photographer can report, this possibility should be forbid..
this kind of “art” is another face of the photography…

The B&W, at first was the beginning of the photograpy… not a chance… the photography was B&W only… but now is another chance, like change a colour in a digital image..

Anyway i prefer shot my pictures with my rangefinder camera… and not change the reality (i just manipulated my picture by
- use the wideangle len
- frame what i want
- taking part of the scene

that it… what i think about it

(sorry for my english..)


by [former member] | 07 Aug 2006 01:08 | xxx, Italy | | Report spam→

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