Monday, August 07, 2006

Editing pictures after taking them

I read a story of a photographer working for Reuters who has been accused of "doctoring" an image of a war zone in Lebanon. [1] I would have been suitably shocked, but a photographer friend of mine assures me that photographs are routinely touched up. Pictures of cars, models, food etc.. Of course, adding extra smoke to a bombed building to show more intense destruction is perhaps not cricket.

When I look at pictures from a city devastated by air strikes, and all that can be seen is smoke billowing out amidst rubble, then I doubt if I could tell the difference between the east end of the city and the west. Particular features might be recognisable, like the Eiffel tower in Paris, or the London Eye in London, but apartment blocks have a distressing tendency to look similar. What is such a picture meant to convey - that man-made buildings are in need of repair and there's lots of smoke? The picture in question (from the JP website, attributed to Reuters) might easily belong to a city of an African or Asian country afflicted by civil war, or even the same city ten years earlier. News pictures rarely contain any supporting text which asserts their provenance and their fidelity, unfortunately.

I wish that each picture might have the name of the photographer, location where the picture was taken, a description of the subject or subjects, and date when the picture was taken, and whether there was any modification at all done to the picture (including cropping, colour balancing, sharpening etc.) or not. If this information is not available to the publisher, then this fact too should be mentioned.

With these criteria in mind, I couldn't find a single picture on the handful of news websites I browsed which passed muster. (and I even relaxed the first and last of these)

Before we achieve more transparency concerning the provenance of news-images, an extra plume of smoke, or even two, coming out of an apartment building seem trivial.



[1] http://today.reuters.co.uk/news/articlenews.aspx?type=topNews&storyID
=2006-08-06T214325Z_01_L06301298_RTRUKOC_0_UK-MIDEAST-REUTERS.xml

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1154525816599&pagename=
JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

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