Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Photo Illustrations

Photo illustrations can be traced back to the beginning of the creation of photography, but in recent years the trend is starting to discredit many publications.

With more and more doctored images popping up in magazines, newspapers and online, the public is starting to look at all photographs with skepticism.

The O.J. Simpson Photo

The June 27, 1994 covers of Newsweek and Time feature the same LAPD mug shot of O.J. Simpson. Newsweek ran an unaltered version,
while Time darkened and blurred Simpson's face. After receiving harsh criticism about the manipulated cover immediately after it's release, Time pulled the issue and ordered a reprint. Many minority groups said Time altered the cover to show Simpson in a more sinister light and accused the magazine of racism.

The illustrator of the image (not the photographer – the image was a mug shot from LAPD), Mar Mahurin, said he wanted to make the cover "more artful, more compelling."

James R. Gaines, m
anaging editor for Time at the time, issued an apology shortly after the cover was released. He said that the publication was not trying to put forth and racial implications, nor imply Simpson's guilt, t
hrough the manipulated photo.

To read the apology letter in its entirety, go here:

The Economist's Obama Covers
On June 19, 2010, The Economist showed a picture of President Obama standing alone with
his head down on a Louisiana beach. The original image portrayed a scene of the president standing next to a member of the coast guard and a local parish president, Charlotte Randolph.
"I was managing the paper the week we ran the image of President Obama with the oil rig in the background. Yes, Charlotte Randolph was edited out of the image (Admiral Allen was removed by the crop). We removed her not to make a political point, but because the presence of an unknown
woman would have been puzzling to readers," said Emma Duncan, deputy editor of The Economist.

Another cover of The Economist was altered and ran on May 15, 2010. This one eliminated the background of an photo showing President Obama walking. Duncan says the image was edited in order to bring out the central character, which it certainly does.

The question behind all these photo illustrations is, where do we draw the line? In class, many of you thought the bottom cover of The Economist was acceptable, but the top was not. Playing devil's ad
vocate, both are manipulated photos, showing something other than what was truly happening in the images. On the other hand, the "It's time" cover of The Economist is more of an artistic illustration meant to attract attention. Does that make it OK?


The question of labeling was a topic of huge debate after Newsweek ran a photo illustration on the cover of their March 3, 2005 publication. The cover showed the body of a model shot in a Los Angeles studio paired with Martha Stewart's head. Originally, the cover shot was credited to Marc Bryan-Brown, who shot the model in the studio. Newsweek corrected the byline in their next edition, and on page 3 of the March 14 issue they called the cover a photo illustration.

The National Press Photographer's Association called the cover a "major ethical breach." Jack Zibluk, an associate professor of photojournalism at Arkansas State University, brought up the issue of labeling. "I find it very disconcerting that Newsweek's editors see 'labeling' as the answer to the issue. It's not. The real answer to rebuilding the trust of the audience is to commit to true and accurate photojournalism...The tendency to use more illustrations and fewer real photojournalistic images is blurring the line between opinion and truth the same way Web blogs and talk radio are blurring the line between 'honest news' and one-sided screed."

Read more about the issue from the NPPA here:http://www.nppa.org/news_and_events/news/2005/03/newsweek.html

The list continues

If you want to find more manipulated photos, you don't have to dig too deep. Here are some links to a few others I showed in class.

Portland Tribune: http://www.portlandtribune.com/news/story.php?story_id=128700705813481800

Lance Armstrong on Outside: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/16/lance-armstrong-outside-m_n_614647.html

Abe Lincoln: http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/farid/research/digitaltampering/index1.html

Also- for some of you photoj people: Here is the ethics guide from Reuters about which tools to use and not use in photoshop: http://handbook.reuters.com/index.php/A_Brief_Guide_to_Standards,_Photoshop_and_Captions

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