On my way to the fair ………. I was listening to a WNYC podcast program about image manipulation in news. It was a discussion program that was scheduled after all the fuss about the Reuters photographer who put “fake photographs on the Reuters news service” from the war in Lebanon. It was a very interesting wide ranging discussion led by the iconic public radio host; Leonard Lopate…….I genuinely enjoyed the flow of the conversation…. image manipulation of the past…… the disappearance of Trotsky and others from photographs, people who had been disappeared, exiled or killed by Stalin. The setting up of earliest war photographs from the American Civil war ……. and other fascinating stuff……the only thing lacking in my view was……. why the image manipulation in the Reuters Lebanon incident actually occurred.
In the end I wrote this and supplied it to Tim Gopsill the editor of ‘The Journalist’ who wanted to quote me on this issue:
Sympathy for the Devil
I cant help feeling sorry for that Reuters photographer Adnan Hajj. I mean he was doin the business alright……… risking his life to shoot images showing the reality of the war in Lebanon. He had taken very real pictures before any question of manipulation came up. The pictures in question show Beirut burning after a bombing strike and an image of an Israeli F-16 fighter over Nabatiyeh in Southern Lebanon . To get these pictures means being in that area of high risk constantly and always being ready to head for a specific zone of extreme danger……. to where the most compelling images can be made and with the most likelihood of death or injury for yourself. Even these two pictures that are the subject of the ‘fake’ controversy were not generated in his basement by computer graphics……….. he stood in an exposed place and photographed both the F-16 and the city burning. Im not condoning his later crass manipulation of these images. It was indeed crass and totally unacceptable. Reuters are certainly right to discipline him and distance themselves from that kind of manipulation of images or news. Still this manipulation did not much alter their content and emphasis certainly not their meaning. It was a violation of journalistic ethics but on a fairly minor scale. I hate manipulation of images and news it undermines our entire industry, any hint of it feeds the cynical ‘you can’t trust the press’ and pushes ignorant conspiracy theories…….. but still…….I should dislike Adnan Hajj……but….. like I say I cant help feeling sorry for him. His manipulation slightly increased the impact of the images the higher contrast darker smoke made it slightly more drastic looking…. I suppose…….. but what was the point of this manipulation for him……… was it to manipulate the news that day……. is he a propagandist? ….. Out to paint Israel blacker…… as seems to be the charge. I somehow doubt it. I suspect he was more likely just trying to give his images a boost……. a better chance to run on the wire. I wonder how he is/was paid by Reuters? By the image? By the day? I doubt that he had a nice secure contract package……… or a full-time job with a pension………… ha …… as if ! ………. I wonder if they were even insuring him or his family during this war? Or even as a bear minimum insuring his camera gear and car out in the war zone?…… er….. Maybe they allowed copyright to revert to him to make up for the lack of a pension arrangement?………..Hardly likely………I would like to suggest Reuters should perhaps consider their own role in contributing to this minor breach of journalistic ethics. I am not moving the blame entirely to Reuters and I am not condoning image manipulation of any form in photojournalism. I condemn it absolutely, it is always totally unacceptable, it is a betrayal of our vocation. What’s more I am certainly not saying all freelancers behave like this……… they most certainly do not……… most of the top and most strictly ethical photojournalists in the world are freelance. Still…… I find it hard to entirely blame and condemn this individual photographer……..this one man risking his life to work with the big wire service. I feel sorry for him. I suspect that the financial arrangements at Reuters contributed to his course of action. To a belief on his part that it was in his long term interests to behave slightly improperly in an attempt to win a more secure income for himself and his family. Not very admirable in a journalist ……….. but not so difficult too relate too in an ordinary guy.
See the pictures: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5254838.stm
I am the last one to use manipulation techniques. I have a photojournalist’s aesthetic. I have spent years not adjusting anything before or after an image is made. I shot mostly E6 transparency film in the past, it was all done in the camera. I did,nt even use darkroom techniques to burn in or hold back on a print. I don’t automatically even today feel comfortable with ordinary image adjustments in photoshop……. even contrast saturation etc…….I still have a weird belief in the sanctity of the image generated in the camera…… but I am reluctantly recognizing what comes out of the digital camera cannot be quite just treated like a transparency and completely left as is. Partly because it cannot be made to look like a transparency would without some consideration of adjustments.
[ 22 ] comments
- I like your style. Allthough I like to use photoshop too, less photojournalistic I guess. :
The Rocker @ September 6, 2006, 8:36 pm
- Dude…. I really ought to get into photoshop…. its really a desire to be free of the temptation…….Im not gonna start moving stuff about or cutting things out, I have tried to avoid it all together but you are not necessarily generating something equivalent of a transparency in a digital camera sometimes you just need to do the equivalent of what you might do to a C-41 print darkroom….. ethically thats OK….. but it feels like a slippery slope! Jez XX
jez @ September 7, 2006, 12:01 am
- I don’t think this image works for me. Too messy. Looks like he’s got a ferris wheel growing out of his head. RE: your dot abbreviations. It’s three dots (…)between words or after, not something you hit or miss. Pedantic, yes. But there you go. I’m a photoshop kind of guy too. Pretty essential I think if you want the best from your image (even on a basic level). For news, altering the essential content, the ‘as it was’ content or essence, is an appalling act really. But then images can and are manipulated in all sorts of ways anyhow (presentation, context, propaganda etc) and have been since the beginning. Of course, if you consider yourself an artist and not just a photojournalist, then manipulation is perfectly legitimate, and pretty essential quite often, and in many ways, if the artist’s particular vision is to be presented to the world. Anyone can be a photojournalist. Not everyone can be an artist.
Colin @ September 7, 2006, 6:30 am
- Colin….I really enjoyed your comments thanx for taking the time to comment…… although I didn’t agree with some of it! I wrote this in reply: The image is a little messy… sometimes I like that… the ferris wheel doesn’t bother me in relation to the guy but the white stripe above his head as the lights in the trailer exit the image is a problem for me … a classic case for using photoshop to burn it in… but I didn’t.. er… illogical ?… the dots thing… er…………. yeah………….Im sorry…………. three dots just doesn’t do it for me!?! I have no objection to people adjusting their images in photoshop…….. its just I have a illogical preference to not use it……..it’s a personal approach not a school of thought……. I prefer the aesthetic of an ‘authentic’ unchanged image…… its not an ethical thing its a personal relationship with my own work…….. my art work is something primarily created using a camera in relationship to the real world……. not primarily sitting at a computer……. and I certainly do regard myself as an artist ……… I refer to myself as a reportage artist……….I am both a reportage artist and a photojournalist…….. sometimes I am both……….. sometimes one or sometimes the other. Im in full agreement a ‘News photographer’ cannot make any substantive adjustments to any image. Er……… “Anyone can be a photojournalist. Not everyone can be an artist ?” ………… can’t agree with that Im afraid …….. its more like the other way round…….. in my personal view…….. as the definition of being an artist is really for the artist them-self…….. if they define themselves in that role…… so then it is true …….. the definition of being a photojournalist is normally defined for you by others like picture editors and creative directors…………… and they are pretty discriminating…… if you can’t get them to perceive you in that role……… then hey…… almost by definition you are not in it!…….. You could of course still define your work as photojournalistic I guess? To qualify the above statement about being ‘an artist’……. clearly to be an artist whose work speaks to the many…….. is a role for only a very few. You probably need an artist’s agent or gallery to specifically define you as an artist of note……… to be ‘an artist’ as defined by this more exclusive definition which I don’t tend to use myself. Cheers Jez XX
jez @ September 7, 2006, 4:45 pm
- Haha “three dots just doesn’t do it for me” *lol*. I’m kind of a +3 dot person myself :-). Anyway, if photographers decide not to use Photoshop, i say ‘cool mate, show me your stuff’, if they do use photoshop (or other software or a real dark room) i say the same thing. It’s all cool for me 🙂 Anyway, about this shot, the ferris wheel coming out of his head?!? I’m seeing it quite different and i must say that i really love this moody shot.
Kris @ September 10, 2006, 5:08 am
- Well there is your application for a job at Reuters annulled……
Zak @ September 22, 2006, 6:21 am
- I would say that anyone can be an artist and not everyone can be a photojournalist…
Zak Waters @ September 22, 2006, 3:22 pm
- Yeah…..Zak…….even though Im not a fix it in photoshop dude…..I think you are right any career at Reuters I might of had is probably now over by now……still if you remember……. Mark Garland was always asking me to shoot stuff with Reuters when he ran their international desk but i never got round to it……really I think Reuters is not me……I wonder what happened to Marc Garland? (Do you remember him? Before Reuters he ran Bella & City Limits picture desks in London)………. do you know where he is now? Jez XX
jez @ September 24, 2006, 9:38 pm
- I do sort of remember him, but the only face which comes in my head is the guy from that big Union you worked for, cant remember that name either. Maybe he was really Marc Jackson…
Zak @ October 12, 2006, 7:48 pm
- You are thinking of Scott at UNISON right?….. er…its not him…. he’s way to mad….. er….. Marc Jackson fount of all knowledge and wisdom…….. er ……..his is a life of the serenity of the astral plain…. he is hardly likely to stoop to run the international picture desk at Reuters
jez @ October 13, 2006, 12:11 pm
- Last I heard Marc was running a brothel in Scarbrough called Pheonix Heights!! Now there you go…
Zak @ October 13, 2006, 1:26 pm
- Ah yes……I believe it is a mighty Zorastrian astral plaining temple
jez @ October 13, 2006, 2:04 pm
- Ah yes……I believe it is a mighty Zorastrian astral plaining temple
jez @ October 13, 2006, 2:05 pm
- Sanciaxox Saislilybeala
Foupeftfest @ April 25, 2009, 10:52 pm
- he does vouchers for his friends too. Buy one get one free on Sundays…..
Zak @ October 21, 2006, 5:00 pm
- he has a nice selection of Peking Duck too which should be to your approval as I know you are a fan of Far Eastern culture…..
Zak @ October 21, 2006, 5:01 pm
- LOL……..ha…..OK….OK….who is this…im not sure I know u caller?
jez @ October 22, 2006, 11:29 am
- yeah sorry wrong number……….
Zak @ October 25, 2006, 7:24 pm
- hi i was just wondering if you have a copy of the podcast. I’m doing my dissertation on image manipulation in the media and i think it could helpful. i have had a look on WNYC website but not really getting very far. thanks Jo
jo @ November 10, 2006, 12:33 pm
- er…….sorry……I think i chucked all old the podcasts out of my system & ipod literally about 3 days ago…… and sometimes things disappear from the WNYC website…..I think they only keep everything up while its still current…..then it is just a question of only greatest hits….maybe this did’nt qualify……..er… maybe they could email it to you it if you ask nicely? Im pretty sure it was the Lenoard Lopate show of within one week prior to this blog entry date. sept6th 06 Good luck Jez XX
jez @ November 10, 2006, 12:58 pm
- Oh my, people are so touchy and they tend to comment too much on the things which shouldn’t even be their business. And you Jez, have to deal a lot with this crap. I’m sorry.
But the photo he used photoshop at, is a lousy photo. Man, you can easily tell, that he has used clone tool and why, as it didn’t change anything more dramatic or drastic. I hear you Jez on feeling sorry for him, but that was a stupid thing from him to do, as on this photo it definitely didn’t change anything better.
Kerly @ November 12, 2010, 5:54 am
- Its true…….. photojournalists should not be doing all that stuff…… but i cant help feeling sorry for a bloke risking his life to cover the war getting sacked for his use of photoshop…… :-/Cheers Jez XXXXXXXX
Jezblog London @ November 12, 2010, 8:09 am