Friday, August 11, 2006

Seeing and believing

This week's incidents of photo-doctoring of pictures from Lebanon that have been published by some news organizations have provoked a good deal of outrage and hand-wringing.

So they should.

Changing a photograph in a way that alters its meaning -- even if only incidentally -- is not a good thing for journalists or journalism. We have been reading about this sort of thing far too much these days, and unfortunately, we will probably continue to hear about such behavior.

But in an article in Slate ("Don't Believe What You See in the Papers"), Jim Lewis has some valuable perspective on how we view photography. A photograph has power because we believe it; we think that if we had been standing beside the photographer when it was taken, we would have seen the same thing. That's not true, and Lewis does a good job of reminding us of that fact.

Lewis also links to a "rogue's gallery" of digital manipulation put together by Dartmouth's Haney Farid that reminds us that this sort of thing happens on a regular basis.

Read more about journalism and issues facing the profession at

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