Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The unobvious: About truth in a photograph

In Errol Morris' terminology OFF

This might well be a first and then it might well be a last. Errol Morris writes a post in his NYtimes blog about two photographs by Roger Fenton from the Crimean war. They're up at the top of the post. After you've done the find the differences search, you'll realize that there are a few extra cannonballs in a new place. Are you tempted to infer a little hanky-panky? Primed by so much of it happening just recently, I certainly was.

In Errol Morris' terminology ON
"Nothing is so obvious that it’s obvious. When someone says that something is obvious, it seems almost certain that it is anything but obvious – even to them. The use of the word “obvious” indicates the absence of a logical argument – an attempt to convince the reader by asserting the truth of something by saying it a little louder."

Read the post and the comments to find out why it is not so obvious. A lovely piece of photographic sleuthing. Also neat observatiosn from participants in the discussion. The internet is wonderful thing!


Ritesh said...

staging isn't something's become a common practice with mostly all news photogs...the reason offered is "deadline". It's quite a sad thing but it's true. They seem to have found new ways of dramatizing stuff, retouching, thanx to photoshop. Removing distractions, multiplying smoke, or adding clouds and other elements of a picture. I was even more shocked to have found out when I heard that Jo Rosenthal's iconic image of the marines raising the US flag was stage managed!!

Natasha Mhatre said...

Hi Ritesh,
Thats a very dim view of PJs! I dont know if its entirely justified. Well lets put it this way, most journalistic photographers, the rank and file I don't think do it. But we hear about the ones that do so we have the perception that it is very common. Its a classical cognitive error that humans make.

At any rate, I know of most of the cases you're talking of Adnan Haj's image and Rosenthal's Iwo Jima, some of the other Beirut images that were alleged to have been manipulated, etc. Just suggesting that they are not that common. I think that most are indeed ethical PJs.

Do look around my archives, I've talked about this topic a bit.