Monday, July 31, 2006

It's All Lies

Here we go again. A photographer has been fired from the Charlotte Observer for altering the colour of a sky in a picture. Quoted from here:

"Accuracy is among our most sacred journalistic values. That goes for the photographs, as well as the words, that we publish."

So tell me, O wise editors of the Charlotte Observer, when a photographer crops a photo does that make it less accurate? When they frame their image to include one thing and exclude another does that make it less accurate? When they choose a higher ISO setting and get a grittier, grainier result, does that make it less accurate? When your printer prints your picture with too much magenta because newspaper printers never reproduce colour with any kind of consistency, does that make it less accurate? When the photographer shoots with a telephoto lens to compress the depth of a shot, does that make it less accurate? When a photographer shoots from a low angle to make a more dramatic image, is that less accurate?

When is a photograph accurate? The answer is never. Berndt and Hiller Bescher, the German photographers who inspired people like Andreas Gursky have spent an entire career taking pictures of water towers and blast furnaces from exactly the same angle on flatly illuminated days and printed them with as little contrast as possible in order to retain detail to try and prove that photography can be objective. And they fail utterly. Why? Because it is impossible for a photograph to be objective. It is taken by an individual, who by necessity must crop some things out when he or she frames the image and also by the position they choose to take the shot from. Even given perfect mechanical reproduction these two factors alone preclude objectivity. Once the subjectively selected photons penetrate the lens the colour response of the camera sensor or film will further change the look (whether it is done deliberately or not) and then the picture will probably be cropped further once it hits the picture editor's desk.

You don't have to use Photoshop to manipulate images, you do it automatically by taking the damn picture in the first place. This notion of objectivity that journalists cling onto is a fraud, and its persistence in our mass-media culture is pernicious and I know I bang on about this, but the sooner the general perception of all images is that they are "subjective", if you are feeling charitable and "fake" if you're being brutally honest the better this world will be. Let's not forget it's photo (light) graphy (drawing) not "photomimikos" or whatever light-copying would be. Right my blood-pressure's gone through the roof again. Nurse, where's my medication?

Hat tip to Pimplomat for drawing my attention to this lunacy.

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