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Moral Quandary

Published : 26th January 2004


Interesting story on "All Things Considered" ... recently ... about a newspaper photographer (Patrick something, sorry, I was in the car) who had won three North Carolina press awards for his photos.

He was then stripped of the awards -- not for moving objects, making composites, etc, the usual crimes -- but for some serious burning and dodging. One winning photo, a farmer silhouetted against the sunrise, he described as being overexposed in the original (obviously he exposed for the farmer) and he darkened it to taste, making it far more dramatic.

I think this is an interesting area to discuss -- how far is too far?

Jeff "moral quandary" Kreines



Jeff Kreines wrote:

> I think this is an interesting area to discuss -- how far is too far?

I heard the same discussion.

I think they were way off base in rescinding the awards. By those standards, Ansel Adams would have been disqualified as well.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP



Jeff Kreines writes:

>I think this is an interesting area to discuss -- how far is too far?

I think this is a very important issue. If we discuss it and come to some agreement (maybe not so easy) would it be possible to make some kind of group statement?

We could have our own Move On (US Politics over the internet - very effective). We could call it Shoot On...

Steven Poster ASC



Brian Heller wrote:

>I think they were way off base in rescinding the awards. By those >standards, Ansel Adams would have been disqualified as well.

I agree completely. Even Gene Smith would have been disqualified.

A friend of mine, Danny Lyon, is a still photographer, and he always pointed out that a print could be "too pretty." He said that there are printers-for-hire in NYC who can do amazing (photochemical) things, but that their work was too good for the sorts of images he makes.

A problem I see with this award thing is that there's such a thing as exposing an image one way so that it will be processed (I mean that in the largest sense) in a manner appropriate to getting the look you want. The look of the original image might be flat and bland -- like shooting a low con stock for telecine -- but when telecined it will look as intended.

I'm a purist in terms of many things, but I see post-shooting exposure control (essentially what it is) as being fine. Before DIs occurred, I was working on an optical printer lamp house that used a video projector as a light source, so you could do spot burning and dodging, frame by frame.

I also remember Al Maysles falling in love with finishing films on the optical printer (starting with Salesman) because Adrian Mosser could do frame by frame exposure correction. This was over 35 years ago.

Jeff "digitally impure" Kreines



I think this is madness, but then I would...

Remove the post work from nearly all my work and the work is gone!

The one client who is an exception to this is National Geographic who make it very clear from the outset that there will be NO post manipulation of images.

Of course all you do then id work harder at lying visually.

Frame so that the slums all around don't show in your shots of the Pyramids etc.

Is it less dishonest to lower the camera so that a sand dune hides the truth than it is to paint out the mess?

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS

Director of Photography
EU based
www.cinematography.net



Geoff Boyle wrote:

>Frame so that the slums all around don't show in your shots of the >Pyramids etc.

That's the reason National Geographic is so picky -- in the Scitex days they got caught moving around a pyramid (or was it the Sphinx?) to better fit the format of their cover. It was a big embarrassment.

Of course, what's amazing is that there's no such thing as real photographic evidence anymore. Anything can be faked.

Jeff "digitally manipulated" Kreines



>[The photographer] was then stripped of the awards ... for some serious >burning and dodging.

Is this any more or less ethical than if the photographer has set up reflector boards or, heaven forbid, fill light/flash, to light up the farmer against the sunset to a point where no 'correction' was needed in the virtual darkroom?

Clive Woodward,
never dodging the bigger issues,
Perth, Western Australia.



Jeff Kreines wrote :

>...but for some serious burning and dodging. I think this is an interesting >area to discuss -- how far is too far?

Greetings,

Because the subject title mentions Photoshop could it be that digital manipulation was not accepted and that it was mentioned in the fine print of the general conditions and rules of that Award? Maybe this is more of a legal issue rather than an aesthetic one.

A while ago I remember there were Awards that refused this. The original neg or slide had to be put at the disposal of the committee for inspection if requested.

But if one is stripped merely because of burning and dodging then one should also be stripped for : push and pull neg development two bath neg and or print development variable contrast development and on ...

I remember visiting a printer in Paris who almost exclusively worked for the "French National Library". He showed some almost transparent negs and what he managed to get out was just fabulous. One single print could take days of work with the most stunning techniques. Some photographers he was printing some of their work are regarded as amongst the finest photographers world-wide.

Either this Award issue is a legal issue and there is not much one can do about not allowing Photoshop use, or some members or the whole of this committee needs to be ejected.

Regards from Munich

Emmanuel SUYS
Kamera-Assistent, Focus Puller, Assistant Camera
Français, Nederlands, English, Deutsch
European based, Munich



Herein lies the problem. In photojournalism the picture captures the truth. When the image is manipulated, it is no longer accurate. It starts as an adjustment in sky density and works its' way to taking out phone lines and finally ends up adding a frightened citizen as a soldier runs by with a gun. Where does it stop? Where is the line and who decides who's crossed it?

Tom Jensen



Tom Jensen writes :

>Herein lies the problem. In photojournalism the picture captures the >truth. When the image is manipulated, it is no longer accurate.

Who amongst us feel that when we snap a picture our work as a photographer is finished. If that is the case then they should start publishing negatives and not prints. I'm really not a fan of Ansel Adams. But his concept that the negative is the score and the print is the performance has always resonated with me.

How many of us visualize the print the moment we photograph the image? How many of us can pre-visualize the photograph and practice our craft and our art so thoroughly that a negative can be printed at some standard exposure and some standard processing and be the image we imagined when taken? Photographic materials don't work that way. Any time a photograph is taken it is already an interpretation of reality just by the action of taking that photograph.

Steven Poster ASC



Steven Poster wrote :

>Any time a photograph is taken it is already an interpretation of reality >just by the action of taking that photograph.

Exactly. It strikes me that it is the height of hypocrisy to rescind these awards because the photographer "burned-in" a hot sky or "dodged" a dark area. What if he used a grad?

I doubt if there has been a photograph published in the last 50 years that has not been manipulated in some similar way.

Photo editors routinely crop photos to fit available space. Newspaper photo morgues are filled with photos that have been retouched or airbrushed to minimize ink bleeding, etc.

What's more, there can be a great deal more truth in a heavily manipulated photo than in an "untouched" photo, but this is where the discussion becomes philosophical.

Brian "Cameras don't lie, people do" Heller
IA 600 DP



>In photojournalism the picture captures the truth. When the image is >manipulated, it is no longer accurate.

Tom

How far do we go? Are you saying that a photojournalist's picture of Bush standing next to crates that have had Made in China covered with stickers that read Made in USA is capturing the truth? Is that not manipulation?

Or shots with American flags or the Statue of Liberty lit with Musco lights in the background. That's unadulterated propaganda photography.

I think these lines were blurred long ago.

Kent Hughes
DoP
SoCal



>Are you saying that a photojournalist's picture of Bush standing next to >crates that have had Made in China covered with stickers that read >Made in USA is capturing the truth? Is that not manipulation?

Yes, that is manipulation of the truth, not the photo. The photo captured a lie. Should the photo have been manipulated the say "Made in China?"

>Or shots with American flags or the Statue of Liberty lit with Muscolights >in the background. That's unadulterated propaganda photography.

Bush has taken propaganda photography to a new level but the photos of what you are talking about, hopefully have not been manipulated. It is up to the free press to point out that the photos are staged.

I'm just saying that photojournalists' photos of news events should not be manipulated. A shot in a newspaper of a manipulated photo is not news, it is entertainment.

Steven,

I agree with your assessment from an artists viewpoint but not from a photojournalists'. I may have missed the point of this particular photographers' problem.

Were all his photos that he won the awards for entertainment or photojournalism?

Tom Jensen



Kent Hughes wrote:

>Or shots with American flags or the Statue of Liberty lit with Musco lights >in the background. That's unadulterated propaganda photography.

Well, newspapers have been particularly stupid in regards to White House photos. Until it was made an issue, photos taken by the official WH photographer would appear with his name and AP -- no indication that the photo was an official handout, taken at an event closed to real press, and approved by Bush/Rove et al. This went on for a couple of years.

As for the staged events, journalists need to stop covering them like sheep.

But in this day and age, sadly, that's a lot to ask.

Jeff "remembers when the press used to question authority" Kreines



Tom Jensen wrote:

>Herein lies the problem. In photojournalism the picture captures the >truth.

But, of course, many famous news photographs aren't "honest" in the way we'd use that word today. Some are re-enactments (there's controversy over some famous war photos, including the flag raising at Iwo Jima during WW2), some are posed, some are semi-posed ("could you step over here?"), etc. There's lots of "cheating" that can be done before the shutter clicks.

Perhaps there needs to be a special version of Photoshop, for Photojournalists, that permits "legal" tweaks of color and density, but doesn't let you move or remove objects? It could maintain an unaltered copy of the original image, and a digital watermark that says what was done to the image. (Of course, there would be easy ways to cheat --
edit the photo, then dump it into Photoshop PJ.)

Jeff "well, it's not that bad an idea" Kreines



Brian Heller wrote:

>Brian "Cameras don't lie, people do" Heller

Ah!

I've got it!

Digital cameras can store metadata. Add a "galvanic skin response" sensor to the camera, and another to the mouse/trackball/tablet of the retouching computer. Run this data through a program designed to ferret out liars.

So simple.

Jeff "John Poindexter would love it" Kreines


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>Where is the line and who decides who's crossed it?

In the Marines and basically the Military as a whole Concur on this. Anything that can be done skilfully "Dodging and Burning" in a Chemical Darkroom is perfectly acceptable in an "Electronic Darkroom" This includes Cropping Other than that its a No No. And for the most part I adhere to that. I make sure not to ever change the statement or facts of my shots make.

I cant tell you how many People have seen "North Star Tank" that didn't understand Simple Astronomy then said it was done in Photoshop. So it goes to prove sometimes the unbelievable (due to lack of understanding the Incredible Magic of exposing celluloid) is passed off as Manipulation.

This goes for Multiple exposures, well placed flair's, reflections, and motion blur, and a myriad of other tricks. Sometimes a Great natural Shot can't be believed even when on a Proof Print. "Martyrs Ticket to Paradise" was done using Moonlight and 1/2 hour of Time but it looks like day.

I also have people ask if I used a Sepia tone Filter to get the Looks of the dirty Marines coming out of a Dust Storm, When I tell them that these are proof prints and that is exactly how it looked due to the dirt in the sky, some find it hard to believe.

"Best way to get a beautiful shot is to Start with one"

Incidentally I was not allowed to place in a USNI (US Naval Institute) Photo competition with the entry "Screech Glam Shot" because they thought I added the lighting in Photoshop I told them that it was all done in camera.

All I got was a patronizing "Thank you for your entry sir" It also had to do with me being a Marine and it being a Navy Contest they weren't about to let a Marine Win.

class="Paragraph" http://www.seanfairburn.com


None of the shots on this site were altered, other than cropping.

B. Sean Fairburn SOC
Ammeter Still Photographer
Castaic Ca