It’s very true, the camera never lies, however through out history photographers and their editors have been manipulating images to tell the story that they want. The latest case involving this was freelance photographer Narciso Contreras’ Syrian war series for AP. His photo of a Syrian resistance fighter clambering over some rocks was shown to have been edited to remove a video camera resting beside the rocks. AP promptly fired the Pulitzer Prize winning Contreras from the AP to ‘protect the integrity of the agency’ although a close examination of all 500 photos from Contreras showed no other alterations.
This raised the important question of how much editing should a photojournalist do to their images. I think most would say none, as the job of a photojournalist is to record the news not to create art or the perfect shot. Perhaps there is enough drama in the images considering the composition of the photos. It may be fine to remove objects when creating a composition in order to make a better photo but not when recording life events for record.
“Journalism, whether by using words or pictures, must be an accurate representation of the truth.”
Narciso Contreras is not the first photographer to have published a doctored image, that effectively lies to the viewer, in the mainstream press. One of the earliest images to have this done is perhaps one of the most famous photos in history. The photo is of Abraham Lincoln taken in 1860 is a composite of Lincoln’s head and the Southern politician John Calhoun’s body.
Taiwan’s newspaper Liberty Times published a doctored photo of a delegation, led by the chairman of the Franz Collection, being met by the Pope. In the original photo, Wang Shaw-lan, a publisher of competing newspaper United Daily News, was removed. A Liberty Times reporter said that she removed Wang because she was “not an essential presence” and in order to shrink the picture for “better display”. Later, Liberty Times said that the doctored picture came from the Franz Collection, but a Franz Collection spokesman said the newspaper had asked it to airbrush out Wang.