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Distorted Picture-Photoshop and Photojournalism  

2007-09-21 16:17:06|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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After the photos appeared, an employee at theHartford Courant noticed that several Iraqis in the backgroundappeared twice (see Drop Cap, May 2003). The Courant, which likethe Times is owned by the Tribune Co., had also published thepicture.

In an e-mail to the newspaper's photo staff,Walski, who had been with the Times since 1998 and had wonPhotographer of the Year honors in California, wrote: "This wasafter an extremely long, hot and stressful day but I offer noexcuses here... I have always maintained the highest ethicalstandards throughout my career and cannot truly explain my completebreakdown in judgment at this time. That will only come in the manysleepless nights that are ahead."

Colin Crawford, the L.A. Times' assistantmanaging editor for photography, calls Walski "incrediblyexperienced and talented" and says there was no hint of wrongdoingbefore the lapse. A review of his work found no other evidence oftampering.

"It's hard for me to get into the head ofsomeone who is risking his life every day," says Crawford, whoacknowledges the pressures Walski was under on the battlefield.Still, "I can't imagine in my wildest dreams why he would ever doit." After leaving the Times, Walski started Colorado Visions, acommercial photo business.

In another war-zone episode, Adnan Hajj, aLebanese freelancer on assignment for Reuters, was fired fordoctoring images during the August 2006 conflict between Israel andHezbollah in Lebanon. In one photo, Hajj darkened and cloned plumesof smoke rising from buildings the Israelis bombed in Beirut,amplifying the devastation. In another, he altered the image of anIsraeli F-16 fighter jet to make it appear that it was firingseveral missiles instead of a single flare, as the original photoof the plane shows.

This time, bloggers acted as sheriff.According to news reports, Charles Johnson, who runs a blog calledLittle Green Footballs ( www.littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog)sounded the alarm about the Beirut photo. Another conservativepolitical blog, The Java Report (www.mypetjawa.mu.nu), drewattention to the phony missiles.

Bloggers also played a role in uncovering aUSA Today misstep. (Disclosure: My husband, Frank Folwell, is adeputy managing editor who oversees photography and graphics forUSA Today.) On October 26, 2005, WorldNetDaily.com reported thatthe newspaper pulled a photograph of Condoleezza Rice from its Website after a blog called The Pen (www.fromthepen.com) revealed ithad been manipulated, giving the secretary of state a menacingstare. The blog used the original version of the Associated Pressphoto to show the image had been doctored.

The altered photo circulated on other blogs,drawing a firestorm of public protest. USA Today explained in aneditor's note that "after sharpening the photo for clarity," aportion of Rice's face was brightened, "giving her eyes anunnatural appearance." The distortion violated the paper'seditorial standards, the note said.

One of the most ballyhooed examples of photomanipulation was Time magazine's June 27, 1994, cover. Timedarkened the skin and added a five o'clock shadow to a mug shot ofO.J. Simpson, making him look more sinister. On its December 1,1997, cover, Newsweek glamorized Bobbi McCaughey, the Iowa motherof septuplets, by straightening her teeth. The magazinesuperimposed Martha Stewart's head on a model's body for the March7, 2005, cover, when Stewart was released from prison.

The credit explaining the super-imposed photoof Stewart appeared inside the magazine. Since then, Newsweek'sattribution policy has changed. When a photo illustration runs onthe front of the magazine, the credit also appears on the cover,says Simon Barnett, Newsweek's director of photography. Thatprovides "an additional layer of information, so if anyone is inany doubt whatsoever, it's there to confirm what they see as beingan illustration," he wrote in an e-mail interview.

As for news photos, "We do nothing beyond whathas traditionally been done in the photographic darkroom," saysBarnett, who took over as photo director in July 2003.

Barnett says the advent of Photoshop hasincreased the push to create flawless magazine covers. "As digitaltechnology has evolved, art directors at major magazines haveforgotten how and when to say 'enough.' This tweaking and buffingand polishing down to the last pixel has frequently had theconsequence of changing the photograph into something that at aminimum is plastic, and at worst inaccurate," says Barnett, whocounts himself among a minority that appreciates the naturalimperfections that real photography brings. "It adds toauthenticity," he says.

Time's readers are accustomed to finding thecredit for covers on the table of contents, says spokesman DanielKile. If the photograph has been altered, the image is clearlylabeled a "photo-illustration." That was the case on March 15, whenTime illustrated a story, "How the Right Went Wrong," on the coverwith a photo of Ronald Reagan crying. The inside credits noted:"Photograph by David Hume Kennerly. Tear by Tim O'Brien." (See"Finding a Niche," April/May.)

But no matter how pure the intention, NPPA'sJohn Long doesn't buy attribution as a substitute for authenticity."No amount of captioning can ever cover for a visual lie ordistortion. If it looks real in a news context, then it better bereal," says Long, who maintains there should be the same respectfor visual accuracy that there is for the written word injournalism.

Long points out that some photos are doctoredwith the sole intent of doing harm. In February 2004, a photographshowing Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry with actressJane Fonda at a 1971 anti-Vietnam war rally swept the Internet. Twophotos, taken a year part, were merged into one and carried a phonyAP credit line.

Ken Light, who took the original Kerryphotograph sans Fonda, raised a key question in a March 11, 2004,New York Times article about faked images: "What if that photo hadfloated around two days before the general election and therewasn't time to say it's not true?"

The story noted that image tampering did notbegin in 1989, with John Knoll's creation of Photoshop.

On the cusp of the digital revolution in 1991,ethicist Paul Lester documented the history of forgeries in a book,"Photojournalism: An Ethical Approach." He noted that HippolyteBayard made the first known counterfeit photograph more than 160years ago, and during the Civil War soldiers were instructed toplay dead and corpses were moved for dramatic impact. In World WarI, photos were forged for propaganda purposes, including one ofKaiser Wilhelm cutting off the hands of babies.

Lester included a classic example from 1982often cited as the beginning of the steep challenge forphotojournalism in the digital age. When National Geographicemployed what was considered computer wizardry to squeeze togetherEgypt's pyramids of Giza for the perfect cover shot, tremors shotthrough the photo community. Many bemoaned the onset of an era whentampering with photos would be effortless.

In his book, Lester quoted Tom Kennedy, photodirector at the Geographic from 1987 to 1997, who laid down newrules for the magazine. Technology no longer would be used tomanipulate elements in a photo simply to achieve a more compellinggraphic effect, Kennedy said. As for the pyramids, "We regardedthat afterwards as a mistake, and we wouldn't repeat that mistaketoday."

Writing for the New York Times in 1990,acclaimed photo critic Andy Grundberg predicted, "In the future,readers of newspapers and magazines will probably view newspictures more as illustrations than as reportage, since they willbe aware that they can no longer distinguish between a genuineimage and one that has been manipulated." History has given weightto his prophecy as photo managers search for answers.

"Fundamentally, there is only so much you cando. You hope and pray and respect your staff... You trust thatthey're not going to do this kind of thing," says the L.A. Times'Crawford, who, like many others interviewed for this story, seessetting clear, strict policies as critical for quality control. Hebelieves that, despite the Walski incident, the Times has had asolid system in place. "You do the best you can, talking to yourstaff and making sure they understand what your ethics are," hesays.

Since the Detrich episode, the Toledo Blade isspot-checking more photos and scheduling more one-on-one time withphotographers to go over their work. "With the ability to sendelectronically, it is easy to feel isolated from the rest of thephoto department, so we will try harder to establish a sense ofteam," says Luann Sharp, the Blade's assistant managing editor foradministration.

Santiago Lyon, the AP's director ofphotography, oversees the wire service's vast army of 300 shootersplus 700 others operating on a freelance or contract basis. The APhandles about three-quarters of a million images a year, leavingample potential for error.

Lyon has turned to the Poynter Institute,NPPA, the White House News Photographers Association and othermedia groups for guidance as he updates and fine-tunes the wireservice's standards.

"We're looking at their ethical guidelines andour own and coming up with wordage and phraseology more in tunewith the changing world out there," says Lyon, who attendedPhotoshop training sessions for about 200 AP photographers andphoto editors throughout the U.S. in 2006. At each stop, hehammered home the guidelines for responsible use of imaging toolsand repeatedly stressed that "credibility is the most importantthing we have at the AP and journalism in general."

Lyon says a handful of photographers have beenfired for tampering with pictures over the years. He views the coreof experienced photo editors at AP's editing hubs around the globeas a first line of defense for detecting phony images.

There are certain clues photo monitors lookfor. According to experts, the most common signs are differences incolor or shadows, variations in graininess or pixilation, blurredimages or elements in the photo that are too bright or much sharperthan the rest.

Dartmouth College professor Farid isdeveloping computer algorithms, or mathematical formulas, that candetect altered images. Lyon and Farid have met to discusspossibilities for the future, and Lyon has had the professoranalyze old photos the AP had on file and knew had been altered totest the reliability of the detection software. It worked in allbut one case, Lyon says.

But for now, the method is too cumbersome,given that the AP receives between 2,000 and 3,000 pictures eachday. "To work for us, that type of process would have to beinstantaneous, or close to it," says Lyon.

Farid doesn't promote his detection softwareas a magic formula. "The technology is getting better and better.It's getting easier to manipulate, and it is affordable. Everybodyhas it. At least we might slow [the forger] down, make it morechallenging, more difficult," says the computer scientist, wholikens the scramble for improved safeguards to an armsrace.

"I guarantee you there will be people outthere developing anti-forgery detection software or software thatmakes better forgeries," says Farid.

Beyond stopping cheaters, there also is thethorny issue of defining the limits of what is and is notacceptable. Photo editors commonly say that the only appropriatetechniques with Photoshop are those analogous to what wasacceptable in the traditional darkroom. That might ring hollow to ageneration of photographers who have always processed images oncomputers and transmitted them to the photo desk from the nearestStarbucks. Still, one rule is clear: Removing visual content from aphoto or adding it crosses the divide.

Lyon warns that using words to describe visualnuances in guidelines is very complicated. "How do you define thecorrect use of tonal differences lightening or darkening aspectsof a picture in a way that accurately reflects what thephotographer saw?"

In an attempt to clarify standards, Kenny F.Irby, the Poynter Institute's photo expert, confessed in aSeptember 2003 report that he had "dodged" (to lighten) and"burned" (to darken) elements in his pictures throughout hiscareer. He maintained there was nothing sinful about his actionsbecause he did not take those techniques to extremes.

Irby listed notables such as Gordon Parks andW. Eugene Smith among the many great photojournalists who employedthe same techniques. When, then, do photographers slip into theabyss?

On August 15, 2003, Patrick Schneider of theCharlotte Observer was suspended for three days without pay forexcessive adjustments in Photoshop. The North Carolina PressPhotographers Association stripped Schneider of the awards he hadwon for the photos in question. Its investigation found thatdetails such as parking lots, fences and people had been removedfrom pictures.

At the time, Schneider told Irby, "I used thetools that for decades have been used in the darkroom, and now, inPhotoshop, I do them with more precision. My goal is to bring moreimpact to my images, to stop the readers and draw theirattention."

The award-winning photographer was fired inJuly 2006 for an image of a firefighter on a ladder, silhouettedagainst a vivid sunlit sky. The Observer explained in an editor'snote that in the original, the sky was brownish-gray. Enhanced withphoto-editing software, the sky became a deep red, and the sun tookon a more distinct halo. In the judgment of his bosses, Schneiderhad violated the paper's rules.

While the photo establishment buzzes overscandals like those of Schneider and Detrich, others ask, "Sowhat?"

The Toledo Blade's Royhab was surprised whensome readers questioned the ruckus raised over Detrich's misdeedsand asked what was wrong with changing the content of a photographin a newspaper. "The answer is simple: It is dishonest," Royhabwrote in an April 15 column.

On SportsShooter.com, a Web site run by USAToday photographer Robert Hanashiro, some attacked Detrich for hisduplicity while others defended his right to stay in journalism.That did not sit well with Bob DeMay, chairman of the board of theOhio News Photographers Association and an acquaintance ofDetrich's.

"I find it very scary that some people didn'tfind fault at all," says DeMay, photo editor at the Akron BeaconJournal. "There used to be an old saying, 'Pictures don't lie.'Well, they do now. Once that seed of doubt is put in somebody'smind, it's frightening."

Like many others, DeMay sees the troubledstate of newspapers playing into the equation. Pushed to the limitsby layoffs and hiring freezes, many photo departments have fewerbodies to do more work. Three photo staffers at the Beacon Journalwere laid off last year, taking a toll on quality, says DeMay. Astravel budgets are slashed, there is more reliance on freelancerswho file photos from a distance, without the backstop of newsroomaccountability or ethics codes. And the competition for newspaperspace has never been fiercer, increasing the pressure for dramaticimages.

There also has been a cultural change in howphoto departments operate. In the past, photographers often workedtogether in the darkroom; there was more collaboration and moreoversight from photo desks. Today, it is common to transmit imagesfrom the field via laptop computers, with only occasional newsroomvisits.

Opportunities for misdeeds are boundless,warns Larry Gross, coeditor of the book "Image Ethics in theDigital Age." Once photographers step over the line, there is verylittle they can't do, and, if they are skilled enough, they mayleave little or no trace, says Gross. Years ago, editors could askfor the photo negative to make comparisons, but digital images canbe changed so that there's no original left, no way to track backto an initial state. Adding to the angst of photo watchdogs, newand better versions of Photoshop are on the horizon, which islikely to widen the scope of fakeries.

NPPA's Winslow wonders if the ethics quandaryin photojournalism is akin to the problem professional baseball haswith steroids. "Are there lots of people doing what Detrich didwithout editors and managers realizing the extent of the problem?"he asked in his May article. "Or do they suspect, but do nothingabout it?"

Not everyone sees a dim future. Author DavidPerlmutter believes that, by some standards, this is the golden ageof photojournalistic ethics.

"If you are caught faking a picture today, youare fired. Fifty years ago, it was just part of the business. Nowmost people have gone to journalism school and learned ethics.Newsrooms are taking these things more seriously. Standards arehigher than ever," Perlmutter says. "On the other hand, it hasbecome so much easier to get away with the crime."

Ricchiardi has written about coverage of thewar in Iraq and the Virginia Tech massacre in recent issues ofAJR.

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