For this assignment, two or more sets of photographs are called for, each of which sets the same event in a different light. Manipulating images in post-production is just one way in which a photograph, or series, can be angled to support a particular viewpoint or bias. Others are:
- Staging, where the events depicted did actually take place but were contrived by the photographer (or other orchestrator) to suggest a certain story slant. An example is the ‘access’ event, where journalists are herded through a location by the controlling organisation. Here the opportunities for photography are carefully arranged and often say more through what was excluded than allowed. The difficulty is that although the images may be sterile, the viewer has no way of knowing what was avoided unless it is pointed out in accompanying text. In other circumstances the photographer may direct events, even partially, to achieve a more ‘dramatic’ or palatable result.
- Selective framing is unavoidable since it’s a choice the photographer makes each time the shutter is pressed, but some exclusions can alter the information a photograph proposes:
Deep Politics, Media Fail, Video, War & Peace. Media Manipulation: Are Conflict Photos Staged? – WhoWhatWhy. https://whowhatwhy.org/2011/10/16/media-manipulation-are-conflict-photos-staged/ (accessed July 11, 2017).
In the image pair above the figure on the left looks like a rioter hiding his identity – on the right, it looks more like he’s just trying to fetch water and protect his lungs. Same time, same place different angle.
Framing, angle and position can influence the ‘story’ as well:
On the left the photograph is taken from a lower viewpoint emphasising the ‘standing up’ message on the placards. The PM is closely surrounded by enthusiastic admirers. On the right, the whole scene is included and shows the ‘strings’ – there are more journos than supporters and the setting is low rent industrial rather than heroic.
Following WWII, a code of photographic ethics emerged. Experienced photo editors, alert to signs of manipulation, pored over negatives and contact sheets. Today, bankrupt and cost-cutting media publications have laid off photo editors and staff photographers by the thousands. Many untrained and poorly paid freelancers—each with the power to alter a scene at the click of a mouse—have largely replaced them. Editors with little or no photo experience post images to the Web in seconds. Corporations, political campaigns, and regimes around the world flood the Internet with doctored photos. A new barrage of altered images is being presented to the public and we are faced with a crisis of credibility.
ALTERED IMAGES. http://www.alteredimagesbdc.org/about/ (accessed July 11, 2017).