March 31, 2014 in censorship, Citizen journalism, digital cameras, digital literacy, digital media and teaching, digital photo ethics, digitally altered pictures, DSLR photography, First Amendment, image ethics, media accountability, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, Media representation, Moral complexity, national press photographers association, photo digital manipulation, photo digital manipulation survey, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, photography and history, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Photoshop, Picture Editing, pictures and emotions, propaganda, public journalism, Social Media, social media, technology | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Suzie Linfield, a professor at New York University, argues in a recent Op-Ed, “The photographs, which document the deaths of some 11,000 detainees, were taken not by the opposition but at the behest of Mr. Assad’s regime. Wouldn’t such a government — wouldn’t any government — want to hide its crimes rather than record them?
Well informed and written primarily from a critical/cultural perspective, Linfield’s position provides a framework for understanding how these recent images are part of a pictorial legacy of shame and moral debasement. Historically, as she points out in her essay, images of suffering, what she calls “torture porn” are not new. In this case, the images may play an important role in the Syrian negotiations as well as in the court of public discourse.
At the same time, more, much more, a conversation considering the relationship between authoritarian regimes and the atrocities they commit, must begin with an understanding of a cultural pathology of pain, apathy, anguish and the collective unconscious.
While observing schizophrenic patients at the Burgholzli psychiatric hospital in 1900, psychoanalyst Carl G. Jung began to develop theories to shine some light on why people act they way they do toward one another.
Jung’s concept of collective unconscious, in the case of photographs such as those made in Iraq, Sierra Leone, or Cambodia in the 1970s, may edify why people being tortured and killed constitute a type of archetypal layer within the human psyche.
In his essay, “The Structure of the Psyche”, Jung observes, “The collective unconscious … appears to consist of mythological motifs or primordial images, for which reason the myths of all nations are its real exponents.” Jung goes on to suggest how the collective unconscious can be examined in two ways, “either in mythology or in the analysis of the individual.”
For Jung, the collective unconscious is comprised of archetypal images - forms or representations manifest in dreams, fantasies, or cultural influences. Jung describes an archetype as a predisposition, which transforms a person’s consciousness through inherited symbolic thought and images. Archetypes such as the shadow, can affect ethical, moral religious and cultural behaviors.
As early as 1870, people have been using photographs to record the spectacle of the shadow archetype. The shadow or “black side” of a personality, in this case the perpetrators of abuse and torture project upon others repressed fantasies such as sexual conquest. Linfield’s use of the term “torture porn” certainly makes this connection. Susan In her book “Regarding the Pain of Others” Susan Sontag observes, “To take a photograph is to participate in another person's mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time's relentless melt.”
In the 1870 hand-tinted postcard depicting the lynching of J. L. Compton and Joseph Wilson in Montana, a group of vigilantes pose dutifully for the photographer. As a symbol of frontier justice, torture and death reveal a form of Jung’s shadow archetype. Even though the lynching picture, as well as all images depicting suffering, demonstrate a dispassionate bearing towards the human condition, the collective unconsciousness irrevocably tied or our “dark side” prevails. Today, the image surfacing from the Syrian situation is considered by many as morally and irrevocably despicable and shameful this may not have been the case in the lynching photographs made throughout the late 1800s and through the mid-1960s.
Another difference between the Syrian images and those of public lynching is symbolic consciousness. Symbols occupy the mental images of the mind and inform attitudes and beliefs. Moreover, symbols have an implicit and explicit influence on self and national identity as well as social order and organization. The authority of pictures depicting torture and death subsume or invalidates a victim’s archetypal sense of self/being and places them in a class often dismissed by the abusers as either incomprehensible or incredulous. For example, Syrian governmental claims pronouncing how the images of brutal beatings and strangulation were digitally manipulated demonstrates both the collective conscious and unconscious state of denial and denouncement.
Illustration: Dennis Dunleavy/Credits:TIME/via Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
February 04, 2014 in Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, digital photo ethics, iconic images, images of violence, Media Criticism, middle east, middle east unrest, photo digital manipulation, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, photography and history, Photography and society, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Politics and Photography, prisoner abuse, Susan Sontag, Syria Torture Images, Syrian peace talks, Torture, visual culture citicism | Permalink | Comments (0)
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The Washington Post website ran a photo gallery about Rep. Anthony Weiner's alledged three-year spree of having sexually explicit communications with women in various online settings. The interesting thing about Weiner's tweeter picture (left) is the advertisement (right). It's just a coincidence of course, but both are selling body image. It appears that Representative Weiner doesn't seem to worry about the "tiny belly."
It is difficult for a website to control the juxtaposition between news content and advertising. Although they appear in close proximity, the placement of the images is almost certainly coincidental.
June 07, 2011 in advertising, Anthony Weiner, media accountability, Media Bias, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Photo-ops, photography, Photography and society, Photojournalism, pictures and emotions, Political pictures, Political satire, politics, Politics and Photography, Social Media, Twitter | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tags: Anthony Weiner, Anthony Weiner scandal, image ethics, Politics, politics and ethics, Twitter pictures, Weiner twitter picture
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It's easy to poke fun of politicians and religion -- some news outlets excel at it. In the end, though, cheap shot journalism -- one that is not fair-minded, balanced, or honest -- represents the crumbling of a vital relationship between freedom of expression and democratic civics.
Surveys tell us that distrust of mainstream media remains at the bottom of respectability.
Now, instread of taking the high ground, and treating the public seriously, much of the media stands around wringing its hands. It's business as usual. But making fun of someone's faith is hitting below the belt. In the end, taking on a person's belief system distracts from electing a president with integrity and vision. In the Newsweek article that accompanies the image, the writer even asks if Mormonism is a Christian faith. There is an assumption here based on the image as well as in the reportage that Romney's faith makes him unfit to govern.
The media, like a school yard bully, plays a critical role in giving this nation a president "it" thinks it deserves. Bombast and senstationalism appear tools of the trade.
Trying to understand a complex issue is never easy, but there is no excuse for not giving a candidate a chance to defend themselves. . Not a lot of people understand Mormonism, maye they understand the faith less than they do Islam. Religion is often the target of satire because it is based on differing belief systems. Connecting Romney's faith to his ability to govern undermines the public's ability to assess his competency as a future president.
As many public relations specialists will say, negative press is better than no press at all. But there is something inexpliably wrong here. The digitally altered image of Mitt Romney dancing around is a spin on the current Broadway play "The Book of Mormon." The mash up is supposed to be satrical, and suppose it is. But there is something else at work here. How is possible to make an informed decision about a candidate when the media has already visually defamed them? Yes, it's funny, but selecting a U.S. president is not. The Newsweek cover featuring Romney, the dancing Mormon, deflects from a larger and more critical debate about religion and politics in this country. For decades the media has treated the two forces as separate, but politics and religion are hard wired into our system of discourse and governance.
The first repsonse to a critique such as this one is that wouldn't be the first time politicians have been accosted verbally or visually through media satire. During Obama's campaign he was attacked by the right-wing press as being a Muslim. The smear campaign was aimed planting a seed of doubt -- The attacked attempted to make a connection between the candidate and extremists. Now, Romney's faith is under attack because Mormonism is a mystery for many Americans. When we don't understand something, we make fun of it. That's the way it works. Guilt by association, or in this case faith.
June 07, 2011 in Agenda Setting, altered images, Barack Obama, celebrities, censorship, Dennis Dunleavy, elections, Family Values, First Amendment, iconic images, Journalism, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, Mitt Romney, Mormons, Newsweek, photo fakery, Photography and society, Political pictures, Political satire, politics, Politics and Photography, Press Freedom | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tags: Media and Mitt Romney, media and politics, media criticism, Mitt Romey and politics, Mitt Romney, Mitt Romney and Mormons, Mitt Romney and Newsweek, mormons, Newsweek, Newsweek cover, religion, satire
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Jarle recently commented on the post "Crazy light", in which I wrote: "We are constantly challenged to
make scenes that are less than interesting, more interesting." The question that this raises, however, is when and how are the conventions of honest visual reportage bent for the sake of making images more compelling?
Correct. We all strive to make our photos more interesting. But, ethically and philosophically speaking, isn't this in direct conflict with the "our pictures must always tell the truth" mantra?
There's often a thin line between photojournalism, "art" and subjective, commentary photography.
And, playing the devil's advocate, what's the difference between adding motion blur in Photoshop and using a slow shutter speed?
I'll start out by agreeing with much what Jarle has said here. From a purist perspective, "Straight" photography should be a style of photography that records what the eye witnesses without elaboration or embellishment. For the most part, this form of photography, what is photojournalism today, has remained pretty much true to form. At the same time, it is possible to find quite a few examples of photojournalism from the 1980s to the present day, that deviate from the normal conventions.
Photo Credit: Craig Aurness/National Geographic
As Jarle notes, "ethically and philosophically speaking, isn't this in direct conflict with the "our pictures must always tell the truth" mantra?"
According to the NPPA Code of Ethics, photojournalists should "Be accurate and comprehensive in the representation of subjects." The language here seems a bit vague. The language is vague because ultimately it is up to the photographer or his or her editor to determine what "accurate" and "comprehensive" really mean within a specific context. Is Aurness' image and honest, fair-minded and "accurate" representation according to National Press Photographers Association guidelines? In a sense, Aurness has created for the viewer an image that human eye is incapable of seeing. The human eye captures motion at 1/10th of a second, but it also has the capacity to follow a scene without disruption. The optics and mechanics of a camera far exceed the eye in this manner. Therefore, in a case like this, what constitutes a comprehensive and accurate representation?
This issue may actually be more about cultural tastes and values than it is about ethics. Cultural conventions and tastes change over time, but at the heart of any photographer/audience relationship is whether or not the image is deceptive and misleading. Digital manipulation has created a crisis of conscience for many photographers, simply because it has become so cheap, fast, and easy to embellish, construct, and correct images. So much depends on the context in which the picture is made. Motion blur in news photography has been an accepted practice for many photographers for decades. Motion emphases action and helps to make the reading of a scene more meaningful and comprehensive. Just as depth of field can add 3-dimensionality to a two-dimension image, adding motion is a "trompe le oile" or a photographer's way of tricking the eye. However, is it appropriate or ethical to create motion after the fact -- in PhotoShop? Most photographers would probably say no, it's unethical to manipulate images in order to produce an effect after the picture was captured.
Analyzing the image above, can we say unequivocally that a breach of ethics has occurred? Has the context in which the event took place been manipulated by my choice to employ a slow shutter speed? Is the scene somehow more inaccurate and less comprehensive a representation give the fact that the human eye is limited by how much motion it can see at a given point in time? Should photojournalists be required to photograph scenes at 1/10th of a second or higher to ensure that they are more truthful to the human eye?
These questions, and so many others, evoke a great deal of thought and emotion. At the same time, this "thin line" between photojournalistic convention and subjective "artistic" approaches mentioned by Jarle remains unresolved, because ultimately the decision resides with what the photographer believes to be right or wrong. So much of our decision to frame, freeze and fix a moment in space and time depends not only on context, but also on our motivation for being there in the first place.
December 01, 2008 in altered images, camera flash, digital cameras, digital literacy, digital media and teaching, digitally altered pictures, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, national press photographers association, photo digital manipulation, photo fakery, photographic ritual, photography, photography and history, Photography and society, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Photoshop, Picture Editing, pictures and emotions, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tags: digital manipulation, image manipulation, photo ethics, photography, photojournalism ethics
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Sometimes there needs to be a distinction between what people believe to be an ethical decision and a matter of taste. There are lots of disturbing images that may be distasteful to some, but not unethical to run in a newspaper or online. Cultural values and taste, not ethics, increasingly play a significant role in the decisions being made today about what picture see the light of day.
There is a tremendous amount of self-censorship going on in the news today. Many papers will not run disturbing images, not because they are afraid to tell the truth, but simply because of the push-back they get from advertisers and the public.
More than 70 percent of Americans feel they no longer can trust the news they get; and, they can't trust the pictures they see either. Reaction to this reality from editors is to be extremely cautious about running anything that might offend someone, especially advertisers. It wasn't always this way. Editors have been pushed into a corner in terms of how decisions to run controversial images are handled. I imagine that even a "corporate suit" or lawyer may be consulted before a picture is used today.
The impact of poorly made decisions -- ethical ones -- comes down to perception. The currency of journalism has to be believability, creditability and legitimacy. Without creditability the line between what you see in the National Enquirer and what you see in the New York Times is blurred. If you can't believe what you see in the New York Times, why believe anything at all?
One really good example of ethical principle related to the positioning and placement of graphic images is how newspapers around the world handled a graphic picture of the 2004 Madrid bombing.
What I really like about this example iof ethical-decision making is how so many newspapers came up with different choices in terms of how to display the image. In some papers you can clearly see a severed limb. Is this unethical? Who is to say what "ought to be" here? What is right and what is wrong about displaying the picture as a moment of truth. This is the reality -- 192 people were killed on the train and bodies were blown to pieces. In other images, editors decided to make radical crops to avoid showing the limb. The editors were probably using the old "breakfast test" here -- a logic that believes that nothing put the front page should make people lose their breakfast over. Is the crop unethical in the sense that they are hiding the bloody truth from readers?
We could look at this from any number of ethical perspectives, including what's in the best interest of the public, what is in the best interest of the advertisers, what is in the best interest of the publishers, or what is in the best interest of the victims of the bombing. Where do our loyalties lie in running such a disturbing image? What are the consequences of running it? Is it right or wrong to run such a picture? Clearly, all these editors had differing opinions on this issue and we can see them for ourselves here.
In others cases, editors chose have the image altered or deleted from the frame. To falsify an image by removing an element is, by all photojournalistic standards, unethical. It is unethical because it is a deception. The strange thing about this type of logic is that even though the paper is lying to its readers, it still expects to be believed as a creditable source of information. The editors might argue how the bloody limb does not really contribute all that much to the story, or they might say they were afraid to offend readers. Even if the limb was not deleted from the scene, some editor opted to darken the limb in order to make it blend in with the background. With headlines reading "Massacre" and "Platform of Death," this type of manipulation makes the display almost ironic. Is toning an image to make it more acceptable unethical? Some editors would say it is. In 2003, Patrick Schneider of the Charlotte Observer was fired over manipulating the color in some of his award-winning pictures. It appears, then, that tolerance for any type of manipulation has become more rigid in this digital age.
Are there any clear guidelines for editors in these situations? How should newspapers and Web sites deal with graphic images -- images that might offend viewers? Making ethical decisions in journalism is a critical responsibility of the press. The public deserves a press that is consistently honest and ethically principled. Having an on-call citizenship committee of peers and the public to help editors decide what people might perceive as right or wrong about using a disturbing image is a good idea. Some publications do have such committees to call upon. Further, communicating with the public about the ethics of using such images is also an important issue. Journalists need to educate the public about their responsibilities as eye-witnesses to acts of great compassion as well as acts of terrible injustice. Today, much of the corporate/consolidated media, however, avoids such accountability when. Therefore, it is no wonder the public has lost confidence in the press when it comes down to making decisions that require insight, empathy, and ethical reasoning.
November 11, 2008 in altered images, digital literacy, Fair Use , images of violence, media accountability, Media Bias, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, photo digital manipulation, photo fakery, photography, photography and history, Photography and society, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, Press Freedom, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual violence, war photography, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Lying is a moral choice people make. Individuals lie. Governments lie -- some lie more than others. The truth is, lying is a fact of life.
Ethicist Sissela Bok puts it this way, "Deception and violence -- these are the two forms of deliberate assault on human beings" (Lying: Moral choice in public and private life, 1978, New York: Vintage, p. 19).
In this age of photo ops and digital photographic manipulation, the "deliberate assault" on human beings appears unremitting. Deception leads to violence against humanity. In fact, when was the last time a lie got us out of a war? This article compares two forms of deception used by individuals and government to shape public opinion – the digitally altered image and the photo op.
Who can forget one of the first major digital deceptions -- the 1992 OJ Simpson mug shot on the cover of Time magazine?
Despite the uproar caused by the darkening of Simpson's skin, the manipulation appeared an anomaly -- a fluke produced by an artist who decided to take creative license with a mug shot.
In a 2006 survey I conducted to help clarify what professionals consider to photo manipulation, I used three different definitions and asked respondents to agree or disagree.
When questioned, “I define photo digital manipulation as changes to the content of a picture after it is made through electronic means,” nearly 90 percent of respondents agree with the statement.
In a similar way, when asked, “I define photo digital manipulation as a process that changes the content of a picture by adding or removing visual elements from the original,” again, the majority agrees with the definition.
However when asked, “I define photo digital manipulation as a process that helps to make the picture better aesthetically,” responses greatly varied.
In this case, 10 percent strongly agree, while 27 percent agree. The remaining 62 percent remain either neutral on the definition or disagree with the statement. As one respondent suggests, “This is a small part of photo digital manipulation, not necessarily THE definition. I would guess this is where the amateur checks in--cleaning up redeye or other little messy details that are easily fixed in this digital world.”
At the same time, when presented the definition, “I define photo digital manipulation as a process that helps to make the objects in the picture more visually interesting,” a majority affirmed the statement.
This raises an issue of semantics, since making “the picture better aesthetically” and making “the picture more visually interesting” seem, at least to me, fairly closely related. In fact, one participant asks, “Can we define the difference 'manipulation' vs. 'image enhancement/post-processing' (tone, color, contrast, brightness, etc.).
Perhaps this is where the line begins to be drawn for many people. For decades, post-production processes have accepted the enhancement through dodging and burning, yet today event long-standing antecedent practices appear to be under the magnifying glass.
Recently, major news outlets around the world, including The New York Times, The Los Angles Times, and the Chicago Tribune, used a photograph of an Iranian missile launch. The photograph turned out to be digitally altered. Headlines accompanying the picture showing four long-range missiles coming off pads were written, true to form, to both seduce as well as edify readers.
The logic here is that if big media buys into a lie, then the public will follow. Not so, thanks to an intrepid army of bombastic bloggers ready to pounce on the slightest journalistic misstep, the truth was revealed. The Iranian government's official news agency manipulated the image. Stop the presses. Why should surprise anyone that Iran would use deception in its current high stakes game of threats against the West?
Pictures, after all, have been used to provoke conflicts for a very long time. In 1897, media baron William Randolph Hearst allegedly told his artist in Cuba, Frederick Remington, who was apparently bored with his assignment for lack of action, "You furnish the pictures, I'll furnish the war." Even though Hearst disputed the quote, there is something prescient in the statement. History tells us that Hearst made a moral choice to provoke a conflict with Spain. After the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine, Hearst's newspaper and others fabricated stories about Spanish atrocities against civilians in Cuba and Puerto to force intervention. Hearst's moral choice to lie was motivated mostly by blind ambition. Hearst needed to build up his media empire. What better way to build a news business than by inventing a war? However, Iran's motivation to manipulate images of its defense system is purely rhetorical -- a way of flipping off the United States after all the chest thumping it has been getting from the White House. The picture is a rhetorical act because it traffics in persuasion and ideology. Lying is a mind game. In game theory, credibility and veracity are cornerstones of influencing an opponent's choices. Bloggers, anxious to make a little news of their own, called Iran's digital bluff, but the game is far from over. In fronting Iran's play, bloggers may have actually escalated tensions between the countries and forced us closer to war.
Different kinds of Deception
While digital photo manipulation is an explicit lie, there are other forms of deception that are far more insidious.
These lies, as illustrated in the photo op pictured above, are more ambiguous and at times even more deceitful. When former Secretary of State Colin Powell held up a vial containing a model of anthrax during it was to convince the world that Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction presented a clear and present danger. The vial was a prop used to signify peril and that if the U.S. failed to rid the world of Hussein we could only imagine the worse possible scenario. Powell's visual cues were supported by statements such as "My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence" and "there can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more." Although the U.N. Security Council didn't buy Powell's rhetoric, the U.S. press did. Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan notes the White House press corps were "complicit enablers" in the buildup to the war in Iraq. Much of the media at the time were eager to have "good" visuals to accompany White House rhetoric and Powell's waving of the pseudo biological weapon worked like a charm. The picture appeared on the pages of most U.S. newspapers and magazines and helped to sell the war to the American public.
While Iran's digital altered missile image was an explicit lie, Powell's pretentious viral rattling theatrics, however, was a more insidious form of deception. The moral choices made at this level are more ambiguous and implicit. Moreover, it is harder to detect the lies when they are presented as "official" news. When political strategists try to spin messages they rely heavily on educated guesses about what they can get away with selling to the American public.
The press often appear to unabashedly play by the rules of the game, and the political image-makers own the rule book. Therefore, much of what we see has been managed to provide predictable responses. Powell's visit to the U.N. was a pseudo-event far more interested in winning hearts and minds than it was about telling the truth.
Staged pseudo-events are part of our political culture and rarely called into question by the public. But there also appears to be greater tolerance for verbal shock and awe over pseudo-events that use physically altered images. Robert Warren explains Daniel Boorstin's theory of the pseudo-event as "a manufactured happening that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy through media exposure."
Stirring up public fear through the influence of government propaganda as played out in the press, be it by Iran or the U.S., continues to deliberately assault human beings around the world through deceit and violence.
Despite overly self-absorbed and obsessed with smoking guns theory bloggers are acting as change agents in this country. Bloggers challenge journalists to live up their implicit promise to “afflict the powerful and comfort the afflicted.” Moreover, bloggers are setting the tone for more engaged and visually sophisticated audiences. Bloggers are now beginning to speak truth to power by calling into question the deceptive practices committed by institutions of authority in this country.
July 12, 2008 in altered images, digital literacy, digital media and teaching, digitally altered pictures, Internet Learning, iran , Iraq, Iraq War, Journalism, media accountability, Media Bias, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, photo digital manipulation, photo fakery, photo portfolios, Photo-ops, Photoblogging, photoblogs, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, photography and history, Photography and society, Photojournalism, propaganda, public journalism, teaching, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, visual violence, ways of seeing, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tags: AFP, bloggers, colin powell , current affairs, deceit, deception, deception, digital manipulation, Iran, iran missiles, lies, lying, media criticism, missiles, photo manipulation, Photo Ops, politics, Propganda, public opinion, public trust, Sepah, The New York Times, war, war, Weapons of Mass Destruction
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Marcus Bleasdale/VII on Media Storm
Recenlty, I showed some of the multimedia journalism being produced and presented by Brian Storm at the MediaStorm Web site. Halfway through a slideshow on drug abuse one student got up to leave the room. I stopped the presentation in anticipation of such a strong response as a way of emphasizing how important the work being presented online is becoming. One question that was raised in class, was why we don't see this sort of work on television, especially cable. On cable television there is no shortage of violence or sex, but when it's real and presented in both still and video, with a photojournalist's voice narrating the story the message is different. Many of the projects one might watch on MediaStorm fail to be commercially viable. The content is either too close-to-the-bone disturbing or it doesn't appeal to the wider target audiences commercial interest covet.
Marcus Bleasdale's recent work on Media Storm about the Democratic Republic of Congo is a case in point. If we didn't know or care about what is happening to this African nation before Bleasdale's voice and pictures, it's time we did. Advocacy photojournalism has a strong tradition in our culture and there is no reason why it should go away, even if every thing seems to be about making money and consumption. The main reason why so many people go into photojournalism is that they can tell stories that make other people care.
Bleasdale's photography wrenches reality into our consciousness in ways other media cannot do. The images speak to the powerlessness of a people, especially the children, that are forced into lives of desperation and despair so that leaders in government and the warlords can reap enormous profits. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 5 million have died in the DRC since 1998. The country seems to be feeding off its own flesh, yet international outrage about the conditions there seldom enter our world view.
January 21, 2008 in consumer culture, Current Affairs, Democratic Republic of Congo, Documentary Photography, Human Rights Watch, images of violence, Journalism, Marcus Bleasdale, Media Bias, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, MediaStorm, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photography and society, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, pictures and emotions, VII, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, visual violence, war photography, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Hail to the cliché.
Just when pictures of Barack Obama on the campaign trail were all looking about the same -- like they could have been taken in Iowa or New Hampshire -- up pops Jonathan Ernst's picture of the candidate holding a baby. Candidates holding and kissing babies is a widely accepted trope in visual arsenal of political campaigns. Babies make good props for the media. Babies aren't controversial and they show the candidate in as a compassionate human being. That said, this picture may tell us something more about Obama then anything he says from up on the soap box. First and foremost, even though candidates and babies are cultural commodities, this picture shows some genuine emotion. It's not the usual display of stoicism we've become accustomed to.
Photo Credit: CBS/via AP
Political campaigns increasingly rely as much on depicting a candidate's personality as much as they do on getting substantiative messages across to voters. It's all part of the package.
Making candidates appear affable and emotional in public is a major part of a campaign's strategy. Of course, it is difficult to always manage how a politician will appear in the media and the reactions they engender, but one thing remains constant -- the universality of the visual cliché.
January 21, 2008 in Barack Obama, Media Criticism, Media Manipulation, Photo-ops, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Political pictures, politics, Politics and Photography, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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The media, it has been said, may not tell us what to think, but it does tell us how to think about things. When the media frames a story in a particular way it also helps to shape our perceptions about an event or an issue. The recent assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan is no exception. Now we are learning that some media crossed the line when major networks digitally blurred the background on images showing the devastation surrounding the assassination.
Obliterating reality and censoring the truth is probably the most damaging thing the mainstream media can do to itself. It is interesting, that in a culture of violent movies and video games, the gatekeepers at the major networks felt compelled to clean up and sanitize the message before sending it out to the public. Was the self-censorship caused by a concern over offending our sensibilities or was it because the networks didn't want to rankle their corporate sponsors and possibly see a dip in their ratings? In this instance, the media is no better than any other instrument of censorship. Mano Singham observes:
Propaganda is far more effective when there is no overt control or censorship of journalists but where they can be persuaded to self-censor, because then everyone, reporters and reading public alike, think that what they are getting is 'objective' news and are thus more likely to believe it. Implementing such a sophisticated propaganda model requires some overt pressure initially, but reporters and editors quickly learn what they can and cannot say if they want to advance their careers.
It is far easily to leave all this mess behind and retreat into the chaos of our own lives, but images speak to us, especially those that are powerful enough to rock us out of the deep sleep of our day-to-day worlds.
Wonkette, the popular political buzz blog, got it right in writing about the assassination photos:
I think we see a hell of a lot of graphic fake violence at the movies, in video games and on the news and we know that it’s not real and there’s so much of it that it has lost its power to offend. But, when it comes to real violence to real people, we all turn away and thus make it less real than the fake violence. These are pictures of real violence, and of the horrible things people all over the world will do to one another, and it isn’t conveyed by seeing the reaction of another person. This look of this man’s pain, and shock, and horror doesn’t do justice to the carnage at his feet, even as real as that pain on his face is.
Emotional images such as those made in Pakistan should make us stop, drop, and roll, as if we were on fire. However, when exposed to such pictures from around the world, especially given the feeling that the media is holding back the reality from us, all we are left is a sense of powerlessness, disdain, and apathy.
The pictures showing graphic violence and the extermination of human life should lead us to action. But what action can we take to make sense of the senseless bloodshed in the world? Should we take to the streets, march on Washington, gather in communities to discuss alternatives, or come together in other acts of non-violent protest? Will our elected representatives really listen to our concerns?
Pictures, have throughout history, helped to move humanity into action. The dead at Gettysburg, the squaller of 19th century tenement life, child labor, and the dust bowl, are all example of pictures that help to raise awareness about issues.
Today, unfortunately, I am not confident this holds true. How many pictures of starving African babies do we need to see before we feel pressed into action to stop the madness? Now we are presented an image, one that is being sanitized for our protection, of a man crying out in grief and shock in the middle of a sea of blood and bodies. Will this picture soften our hearts and make us work for peace in the world. Inevitably, some people that truly feel the pain of this man and his country enough to take action, but what of the majority?
I return to the image of the distraught man repeatedly not out of repulsion or morbid interest, but out of fear. I fear that the day will come, or has already come if you think about 9/11 or incidents of school violence, that I too could be this man. That this man is already inside me.
The reality of the media sanitizing our news should be another wakeup call -- we should care -- we must care -- about the images we see. We must recognize that these images form a constellation of points on our horizons -- they create for us the conditions of knowing we need in order to make decisions about our lives and the world in which we live.
January 02, 2008 in Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, images of violence, Journalism, media accountability, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, pakistan, photo digital manipulation, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Photoshop, Picture Editing, pictures and emotions, Political pictures, Politics and Photography, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, visual violence, war photography, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Photo Credit: Jim Young/Reuters
In a political cycle of relentless photo-ops, countless handshakes, hugs and flag-waving hoopla, it is refreshing to see beyond the candidates to the more human side of life. Young's picture, showing two tired children holding campaign signs in Winterset, Iowa on December 22, offers some comic relief at a time when everything we see and hear out of Iowa or New Hampshire these days seems to little more than create more apathy toward the political process. Thousands of images are transmitted to news organizations each day, but what do they really say about a candidate?
One assumption is that the pictures say very little about the candidate's ability to lead a nation. Instead, what most of the images represent are more about the what the campaigns and media thinks the audience wants to see. At times, there is a glimpse of a human side of a candidate, but for the overwhelming majority of pictures just tastes like a spoonful of cold canned peas. The candidates attempt to project and protect his or her political image, something often proscribed by media handlers. The media, for their part, dutifully carry the message and image, out in the public domain. But increasingly, the message lands flat or is met with incredulity and suspicion.
Pictures frame, freeze and fix a moment in time -- a moment, which has traditionally been grated a lot of credit as a faithful representation of reality and truth. In a political climate where there seems to be more similarities than differences between those seeking power in this country, pictures become a form of mind-numbing anesthesia.
The same thing could be said for other events. How many images have we seen now of President Bush visiting the hospital beds of soldiers injured in Iraq. Is there anything significant in Bush's patting the head of a bed-ridden Army Sgt. John Wayne Cornell of Lansing, Mich., and posing for a photo-op?
Photo Credit: White House
One way of looking at the image is that president would like us to see how much he really cares about the soldiers fighting in the Middle East. Another way of looking at the picture is as propaganda: Go to Iraq, get hurt, get a pat on the head from the Commander-In-Chief.
It's hard not to be a little disrespectful or cynical at times when photo-ops masquerade as reality. In fact, this critique should not be viewed as another Bush-bashing ploy. It doesn't matter who's in office -- the response, and the pictures that represent the response, are almost always predictable.
December 26, 2007 in Barack Obama, Current Affairs, digital literacy, George W. Bush, humor, Iraq, Iraq War, Journalism, media accountability, Media Bias, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, Political pictures, politics, Politics and Photography, President Bush, presidential campaign, propaganda, Reuters, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, visual violence, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Photo Credits: Jim Cole/AP, Jose Luis Magana/AP
What can we learn from looking at pictures? The signification of these two recent images of presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton is striking. On the left, we see a close-up of Clinton caught in a "real" and unflattering moment, while on the right, we get what one might expect from most media managed events -- the santized moment, flags, the powerful gesture.
Human beings are symbol-making animals. We use symbols to make sense of the world and photographs increasingly contribute to meaning and consciousness. When we think of objects, ideas, and constructs, our brain transforms these things into symbols so that we can share our experiences with others. Symbols connect us through language. When we use the words such as reality, love, peace, justice, terror, poverty, pride, or patriotism, images come to mind – images associated through convention with the words we choose to describe our every day experiences. Kenneth Burke reminds us that when we think of reality, what we are relying on has been built up for us through our “symbol systems.” Burke observes, “What is our ‘reality’ for today (beyond the paper-thin line of our own particular lives) but all this clutter of symbols about the past combined with whatever things we know mainly through maps, magazines, newspapers, and the like about the present?”
When we view an image in the media we are given to substituting the meaning of the image with something connotative and symbolic. A presidential candidate stands before a giant American flag, which in turn produces a symbolic relationship. The candidate is by proximity of the flag immediately associated with notions of patriotism, loyalty, duty, public service and sacrifice. The flag is reduces to a backdrop – a symbol that condenses and naturalizes how the viewer should look upon the candidate. Symbolicity is emphasized through the shape, size and colors of the flag. Burke may argue that the language (words) used to describe this scene act as a sort of screen or filter on meaning.
Many years ago, in a cathedral in Texas, there was a wall covered with pictures and petitions from the faithful. The first Gulf War was underway and people used the wall as a commonplace for pictures of loved ones, alive and deceased – a symbolic collective prayer. Images hold within their frames many symbols.
Looking again at the variety of images made during Hillary Clinton's campaign stops, it is hard not to imagine the intensity and determination of the candidates as they are beseiged under the glare of the media. At the same time, we are inudated by "the clutter" of symbols and struggle to understand and draw meaning from one picture to the next.
December 15, 2007 in Campaign pictures, consumer culture, Current Affairs, Hillary Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, media accountability, Media Bias, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, Photoblogging, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, Political pictures, politics, Politics and Photography, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Jack Shafer's article yesterday in Slate Magazine explores the dangers publishers have been encountering with their reliance on using stock photos. Shafer points out that with today's access to web-based stock picture agencies it has become increasingly difficult to make sure the context in which pictures are used match the words. This happened recently when Nature Medicine ran a picture accompanying a story about foster children in Harlem being used as human guinea pigs for HIV drugs. The stock photo used to illustrate the article turned out to be from an orphanage in Ethiopia. Ooops.
Stuff happens, but at what cost?
In an age of instant
communication, as well as the pressures of commerce, design decisions
run the risk of further encouraging the common public perception that
the media cares more about shock value and making money than it does
about getting the story straight. All apologies aside, the damage is what it is -- people aren't always buying into the notion that what they see and read can be trusted.
Picking the "wrong" photo for a magazine story was a lot harder back in the old days, before the Web-based photo agencies got going. The job of picking images usually went to experienced photo editors, people who possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of photography and photographers. They had to assign photos or know how to find the picture they needed in the fat books of stock pix they kept on their shelves.
December 08, 2007 in consumer culture, Dennis Dunleavy, Design, Journalism, media accountability, Media Bias, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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It's in the news today. The International Committee of the Red Cross on Friday said it has commitments from seven countries, including the United States, to protect journalists in war zones.
The countries are promising to educate soldiers and security forces about international humanitarian law, which ensures the safety of journalists. Ironically, while the U.S. signed on to the pledge the Committee to Protect Journalists, a non-partisan human right organization, found that the U.S. military is responsible for the deaths of 16 journalists in Iraq. Spain also indicted three U.S. soldiers last April for the 2003 killing of a Spanish journalist in a Baghdad Hotel.
This doesn't mean that the deaths of journalists at the hands of Americans are intentional. After all, journalists are known to get in the way at times.
The big picture question to ask, then, is why now?
Why has the Red Cross pushed for a reaffirmation of Geneva Convention guidelines on the safety of journalists?
Perhaps it is because during the past two years more than 125 journalists have been killed trying to do their jobs.
Perhaps, that because in 2006, The United Nations Security Council forcefully condemned the frequency of violent attacks against journalists in many part of the world.
or (acknowledging the most cynical possibility)
Perhaps, because people just don't give a damn about the press or the media conglomerates that own the news these days. Maybe people are just to busy with their every day lives to care. Where's the public outrage as attacks against journalists escalate? Many people, especially younger Americans, express their distrust in the media because they see journalists as pawns of industry and government. From this perspective, it is easy to see the cynicism seep into public conscious. The truth is that lots of countries will talk a great game about how they want to protect the press in conflict zones. The reality is, unfortunately, that it is very hard for them to really do anything about it.
Photo Credit: Carlos Barria/Reuters
Presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham at a campaign stop
in Iowa. Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post writes about
how candidates are keeping their distance from the media.
Media critic, Howard Kurtz, has an insightful piece from inside the machine today. Kurtz suggests that media following Hillary Clinton's campaign are kept at arm's length from the candidate. The Clinton campaign apparently fears being sidetracked from off the "daily sound byte" message or from doing a Howard Dean. What is clear, is that the political process as well as the media's role in it continues to disintegrate. The cultural condition of spinning and spoon feeding pictures and words to Americans is alive and well on the campaign trail. Clinton has apparently mastered the great media brush-off.
"Such is life spent trailing the Clinton juggernaut, where reporters can generally get close enough to watch but no further, as if separated from the candidate by an invisible sheet of glass."
November 30, 2007 in Campaign pictures, celebrities, consumer culture, Hillary Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Howard Kurtz, Journalism, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, Photo-ops, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Political pictures, politics, Politics and Photography, presidential campaign, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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A recent survey by the Project for Excellence in Journalism highlights the challenges of covering the war in Iraq. In the study, reporters concluded that "even the basics of getting the story are remarkably difficult."
Over the past four years, journalists have been increasingly forced into perilous situations. Nearly 57 percent of respondents in the survey report that Iraqi staff members working for them have either been killed or kidnapped in the past year. Many more Iraqi staff continue to be threatened. Even carrying a notebook in Iraq today can be a death sentence for Iraqis working for Western news operations. The survey shows that 87 percent of staff cannot identify themselves as working for news organizations.
Overall, journalists, according to the report, have a positive assessment of their coverage, but admit that they come up short when reporting on the lives of ordinary Iraqis.
What can Americans expect from news coverage of Iraq in such a climate of fear and violence? Our perspective and perception of events in Iraq continues to be hindered by an increasing lack of access to information. At best, news organizations continue to rely upon journalists embedded with U.S. and coalition forces for information -- not exactly the best environment for reporting.
Since August of 2006, I have been collecting responses from readers concerning attitudes toward photo digital manipulation.
In order to sample changing attitudes over time, I am relaunching the survey and will begin to compare results. Anyone can take the survey and all participation is voluntary, confidential, and anonymous. For instance, a respondent's IP address is not stored in the survey results, which protects the identity of the individual to some extent.
The intention of the survey is to understand the way people think about digital manipulation over time. In 2006, more than 735 people weighed in on the issue. One of the questions I would like to track is whether or not people can tell if a picture has been manipulated. Many people believed they could. Is that claim still true a year later? Let's find out.
November 27, 2007 in digital literacy, digital media and teaching, digital media_, digitally altered pictures, Journalism, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, new technologies, photo digital manipulation, photo digital manipulation survey, photo fakery, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Photoshop, Picture Editing, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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For nearly 19 months, the has held Bilal Hussein, right, an Iraqi Associated Press photographer, in detention for allededly taking part in insurgent activities, including making bombs.
Hussein, who was seized by the military in April of 2006, is now caught in a battle not only for his freedom, but for the rights of a free press. The government alleges that Hussein had links to terrorists and that an Iraqi court to decide his fate. AP, meanwhile, feels they have sufficient evidence to counter the allegations.
The ramifications of Hussein's trial will be far-reaching. At issue here, beyond the photographer's life and livelihood, is how the U.S. press has become so extraordinarily dependent upon native in-country staffers and stringers for its news. It's not clear how well Americans really understand how much of the news is actually produced by foreign journalists. Typically, wire services, in places like Iraq, have to outsource their news gathering capabilities, especially photojournalism, to people with better command of the language and the culture.
The at the core of this issue is one of trust and credibility. In August 2006, for instance, Reuters discovered that one of its stringers, Adnan Hajj, had manipulated images during the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict in Lebannon. The Hajj incident has had the effect of placing doubt in the minds of an already skeptical public about the authenticity and credibility of the news we receive from overseas. Utlimately, it is hoped that justice and truth will prevail -- however, in times of war -- both of these ideals are at risk when power and politics are at stake.
November 21, 2007 in Associated Press, Dennis Dunleavy, First Amendment, Iraq, Iraq War, Israeli Lebanon conflict, Journalism, Lebanon, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, Politics and Photography, Press Freedom, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, visual violence, war photography, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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This picture reminds me of one of those famous credit card commercials:
The scene: A food bank in Anywhere, USA
Roll Camera: The President, with a sour expression, stands before the camera.
Voice Over: The melodious baritone voice of the announcer comes in.
The Irony of a Presidential Photo-Op: Priceless
Is the president really mugging for the camera with a can of beans? Could the visual metaphor be any more perfect at this time of year?
As Americans prepare to gobble up more than 1.6 billion pounds of turkey, 1 billion pounds of pumpkin, and more than 800,000 tons of beans this Thanksgiving, the photo-op signifies what appears to be another surreal moment for the Bush presidency.
While, Bush symbolically pardoned the White House turkey this week while more than 35 million Americans, including 12.6 million children, will experience hunger. Further, more than 38 million Americans will be eligible to receive Food Stamps. In 2006, The U.S. Conference of Mayors reported that requests for emergency food assistance increase by 7 percent across the country.
There is a significant different between how images denote and connote meaning. As cultural theorist Stuart Hall suggests, pictures are encoded with symbolic meaning. But it is ultimately up to the viewer to "unpack" or decode what the symbols mean. Much of this decoding is determined by context, convention, as well as the disposition of the viewer. Ultimately, the ability to make sense of a picture becomes contingent upon how that picture resonates in every day life for the viewer. For me, the expression "full of beans" comes to mind. Originally, "full of beans" originally meant to be full of energy and high spirits, but over time the phrase has come to represent something more akin to someone who is being less than genuine or honest -- basically someone who is "full of it."
Ultimately, any analysis of this sort probably won't amount a "hill of beans."
Nevertheless, pictures should provoke thoughts, and in turn, hopefully, thoughts will lead to action.
November 21, 2007 in Bush, Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, humor, Media Criticism, Photo-ops, Photoblogging, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Political pictures, politics, Politics and Photography, President Bush, signification, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Photo credit: AP/Joel Page, Cheryl Senter
It's very interesting to follow the course of the presidential campaign through the pictures photojournalists submit for publication. The images above show Hillary Rodham-Clinton, D-NY, in various states of fighting off the symptoms of a cold. The question to ask is why are these images important in reporting the news. Does a candidate wiping her nose constitute news or might it be considered by some viewers as offensive or even tasteless? More importantly are the photographs made of other candidates equally as revealing -- or are we to assume that this sort of reportage is just another journalistic cheap shot?
We know that pictures help to construct our reality and shape our perception of individuals.Therefore, the notion of a conspicuous spectacle relates well to torrent of visual messages we receive daily about the candidates and their lives on the campaign trail.
Are we to assume that images of candidate Clinton, blowing her nose or holding back a cough, help to frame the individual as more human and vulnerable? Could we interpret these pictures on a deeper level -- one suggesting that she may not even be fit to be president?
These images are "fish in the barrel" pictures in that the photographer is very much limited by access to capturing truly intimate moments. In a way, these are attempts by the photographer to either "make something out of nothing" or to put forth an honest effort showing the candidate at their most vulnerable.
All images are persuasive determinants in constructing what may eventually become normalized or accepted as reality. Can we, in this instance, consider for a moment, the determinacy of such campaign pictures -- images that do not always cast a candidate in the best of lights? Do such images, pander toward sensationalism-- where the candidate-celeb is brought before the public specter of scrutiny as somehow weaker than her male opponents?
We cannot fault the photojournalists for honestly representing what is put before their lenses in a public forum. These images, like all the others of the candidates, have a collective impact -- a gestalt. In the torrential flood of stump speech pictures, it will be curious to track and compare just how the types of images made of the candidates differ in terms of what they explicitly and implicitly suggest about a candidate's ability to lead a democracy.
November 12, 2007 in Hillary Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, iconic images, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Political pictures, politics, Politics and Photography, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Nielsen/NetRatings is reporting an increase in U.S. newspaper web traffic. In fact, this year's report shows that web traffic at newspaper websites rose 3.7 percent over last year.
According to Reuters, "More than 59 million people, or 37.1 percent of all active Internet users, visited the papers' Web sites during the quarter, up from 56.9 million a year ago..."
No surprises right? Not quite, some corporate news outlets are still struggling with trying to figure out what the digital age means to their bottom lines.
The pressure is on now in the newsroom as well as the classroom to convince laggards that the Internet is more than just a place to shovel content from print to Web.
As an educator, the opportunity to train future journalists to understand the complexities of news gathering operations and the dissemination of the news in a digital age is both exciting and challenging. Whatever the future may hold, we (the media and the educators that train journalists) must continue to emphasize the importance of a free press in a democratic society. The media, no matter what format it may take, must continue to question and speak to power with integrity and tenacity.
Photo Credit: AP via As-Sahab
It appears that Osama bin Laden's propagandists have been taking some Photoshop lessons lately.
Typically, over the past few years, Bin Laden's screen shots have been less than aesthetically interesting or eye-catching.
Now, as the extremist continues his war of words against all-things capitalistic, especially America, there's someone cleaning up his image, complete with feathered knock-outs and dynamic new background colors. Instead of bin Laden's usual mountain gorilla look, his publicists are now busy photoshopping him to appear other-worldly and prophet-ish.
In some ways, it might be concluded that either bin Laden's stature among his followers is gaining ground, or that his political operatives are finding it increasingly necessary to elevate him through visual representations that make him appear more holy and dignified. Either way, it is curious to consider the sophistication of techniques used to sway opinion and project an increasingly mythic and metaphorical likeness of the figure over time.
October 29, 2007 in Current Affairs, digitally altered pictures, Media Bias, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, Osama Bin Laden, photo collage, photo digital manipulation, photo fakery, Photo-ops, Photoblogging, photoblogs, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Photoshop, Picture Editing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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The Boston Globe is encouraging readers to send in Photoshopped versions of their favorvite Red Sox players for publication on its Website. Dozens of poster-type images have been e-mailed to the Globe and then posted Online. All in good fun? I guess.
The bigger issue here is that in an age of questioning the credibility and authenticity of digital images, especially in journalism, why shouldn't the newspaper think twice about promoting the practice of photo fakery?
Encouraging the public to rip-off copyright protected images from the Internet and then digitally manipulate them does very little to help people understand the importance of intellectual property rights as well as ethics in a digital age.
The Globe has been careful to make sure it covers itself though. According to a notice on the submission page, the Globe reminds readers that they must have the appropriate permission to use any of the artwork submitted and that the work is original.
By submitting your Photoshop image(s) to Boston.com, you agree that such Photoshop image(s) and the accompanying information will become the property of Boston.com and you grant Boston.com permission to publicly display and use the Photoshop image(s) in any form or media for any and all purposes. You also warrant that (i) the Photoshop image is your original work, or is properly licensed, and does not violate the copyright or any other personal or property right of any third party, and (ii) you have obtained any and all releases and permissions necessary for our use. Your submission also allows Boston.com to edit, crop or adjust the colors of the image(s) on an as needed basis.
This raises the issue of what constitutes a copyright violation when the creator is appropriating other images to construct a collage.
It's highly unlikely that the creator of this Photoshop masterpiece actually owns the rights to the faces of the ballpayers in the collage. Therefore, it appears that the newspaper must be viewing the submitted work as illustrations and not pictures composed of multiple works that are copyright protected.
All in all, the practice of encouraging readers to take material off the Web and alter it, speaks to the slippery slope we are traveling on in terms of not only the veracity of what is seen, but of how really easy it is to manipulate how we see it.
October 27, 2007 in advertising, altered images, boston globe, digital literacy, digital media and teaching, digital media_, digitally altered pictures, illustration, Internet Learning, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, photo collage, photo digital manipulation, photo digital manipulation survey, photo fakery, photographic ritual, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, Photoshop, photoshopping the red sox, technology, visual culture citicism, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Techpresident.com, a blog tracking the online activities of presidential wannabees, offers a glimpse into how the social web is increasingly influencing the political process in this country.
One fascinating aspect to this site is a space dedicated to pictures using the Flickr photo-sharing site. If a picture is tagged with a candidates name, Techpresident links to it. In other words, if you are a campaign rally, all the images you upload to Flickr could have the potential to influence public perception of a candidate. It's a new twist on spin from stumpurbia.
What makes this site significant is how it is using the phrase "Votojournalism" to refer to citizen photojournalism. As the site explains:
'We call it "votojournalism" because it is a prime example of voter generated content, photojournalism by the people."
According to the corporate web consultancy firm iDionome, votojournalism is “The excellent portmanteau of Voter and Photojournalism, for voter-generated content where users post pictures of the candidates on the campaign trail, online.”
Techpresident's pitch offers an alternative to the professional spin applied to typical media coverage of a candidate's life during a campaign. As the pitch reads:
"You'll find lots of candid shots here, including those of people attending campaign events, along with the presidentials in sometimes unguarded moments."
The reach of the media spotlight on candidates is now expanding exponentially with the possibilities of the Internet and the social web. Anyone with a camera phone is potentially a "votojournalist", looking to catch that one decisive "tell-all" moment that may influence a candidate's chances to become president.
Although this activity may be beneficial for democracy -- now have more "eyes" than ever before scrutinizing the political process -- we also must be careful not to fall for the redactive nature of photography. The concern here is that the torrent of images we have to deal with on a daily basis tends to reduce complex events into bytes and bits. In turn, an unvetted and relentless stream of images appears intimidating and overwhelming for many people to process. Or, in other words, our visual memory banks is in danger of running over. Votojournalism, then, is creating another visual memory stream for people to contend with in the complex history of the political process. Our visual memory of events is altered by a relentless stream of image -- images that simplify and reduce the complexities of our times to an informational/representational system that appears increasingly biased and unvetted.
October 05, 2007 in Campaign pictures, Citizen journalism, consumer culture, Copyright, Dennis Dunleavy, digital cameras, digital literacy, digital media and teaching, digital media_, digitally altered pictures, elections, Journalism, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, mini-digital video, Mobile Journalists, moblogging, new technologies, photo digital manipulation, Photo-ops, Photoblogging, photoblogs, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Photoshop, Picture Editing, point and shoot cameras, Political pictures, politics, Politics and Photography, propaganda, public domain, public journalism, techpresident, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, votojournalism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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There's a great deal of concern in the media these days about the power to deceive readers through the manipulation of news images. Sherry Ricchiarrdi writes in a recent American Journalism Review article, "Thanks to Photoshop, it’s awfully easy to manipulate photographs, as a number of recent scandals make painfully clear. Misuse of the technology poses a serious threat to photojournalism’s credibility."
We tend to think of the problem as one that has mostly occurred in the U.S., but that just doesn't make sense. Media has gone global, and with it so too do all the problems of a digital age.
Recently, France has been dealing with a media scandal involving the retouching of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's picture showing him on vacation in the United States. The scandal has set off a debate about the president's close ties to the publisher of one of the country's most influential newspapers, Paris Match.
What would make a newspaper manipulate a picture like this? Can it be that the editors decided that the people of France weren't quite ready to see their new president hauling around a few extra pounds? Or, did the editors decide that it was easier to remove a little excess flab than it would be to deal with falling out of favor with the most powerful people in the country? Did the editors get a call from their owner telling them not to make Sarkozy look bad -- that there was an image to uphold and that it was important to show the president looking healthy and active?
The truth may actually be much more complicated than simply removing elements from a picture.
Like its U.S. counterparts, French media is taking a hit these days in terms of public confidence over its responsibility to reporting what they see and hear -- not what they think people want to see and hear.
Thomas Seymat, a former student from France, explains that the newspaper has been defending itself against charges of photo digital manipulation by claiming that they had done no wrong. Editors claim that the picture made the president look heavier than he actually is because of the camera angle, cast shadows, and poor printing technique.
"The thing that makes the story more scandalous is that it is not the first time that something like this has happened with this newspaper. Last year, Paris Match put in front page a photo of Cecilia Sarkozy (Not yet France's first lady) with her lover, in the street of NYC. The editor in chief of Paris Match was fired shortly after, the unofficial reason being that the owner of the newspaper is a very intimate friend of Nicolas Sarkozy. Arnaud Lagardere, a major share-holder of Paris Match, even publicly called him [Sarkozy] "my brother").... which only illustrates once again that collusion between politicians and the press is threatening its freedom and reliability."
The Paris Match controversy demonstrates once again the power of images in the construction and shaping of public perception. However, when the truth is finally discovered what we are left with is a feeling that pictures aren't the only things being manipulated here. Over all, there is a heightened public awareness of the media's power over us. The silver lining to all of this, is that with all of the scandals over digital manipulation in the press these days, people are become better consumers of information. We are learning not to trust everything we see, which may seem unfortunate on the surface. However, in the long run, understanding the relationship between what we see and what we know benefits everyone.
In a recent survey respondents were asked if "it's okay for the media to digitally alter pictures of celebrities to make them look healthier, younger, or thinner. More than 85 percent disagree or strongly disagree that it is wrong.
Even if this all seems to be a matter of common sense, the nagging reality is that the number of incidents related to digital photo manipulation doesn't seem to be on the decline. Therefore, in order to survive in a digital age, we must become more sophisticated visual communicators -- more digitally literate. We must learn to call upon the media to never violate the social contract it builds with its public, as a force outside the reach of self-interests and party politics.
August 28, 2007 in altered images, consumer culture, Current Affairs, digital literacy, digitally altered pictures, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, nicolas sarkozy, paris match photo manipulation, photo collage, photo digital manipulation, photo fakery, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Photoshop, Picture Editing, Political pictures, politics, Politics and Photography, Press Freedom, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Credit: Carnegie Mellon Graphics
Photography and the Dark Arts? Look out Harry Potter.
James Hays and Jexei Efros are really smart people. Hays and Efros, computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon, report they have invented a whole new way of patching up pictures by "borrowing" pieces of other pictures from the web. They call the method "scene completion", but others will differ them, especially when it comes to how the "scene" gets completed -- by taking content from other pictures off the web.
Credit: Carnegie Mellon Graphics
Scene Completion Using Millions of Photographs
By using the data base of the World Web, with millions of images to pick from, Hays and Efros, have figured out that they can splice slices of reality in a seamless process that differ from previous methods.
The interesting point here is how science, which seeks to solve a problem, often complicates and creates even more problems.
As the image engineers explain:
"Our chief insight is that while the space of images is effectively infinite, the space of semantically differentiable scenes is actually not that large. For many image completion tasks we are able to find similar scenes which contain image fragments that will convincingly complete the image. Our algorithm is entirely data-driven, requiring no annotations or labeling by the user. Unlike existing image completion methods, our algorithm can generate a diverse set of image completions and we allow users to select among them. We demonstrate the superiority of our algorithm over existing image completion approaches."
To their credit, Hays and Efros, have just moved electronic photo manipulation to a whole new level -- they have given the photo industry a bigger gun in which to pass off composites, fakes, and illustrations as wondrous illusions of reality. Not that photography hasn't been dealing with these issues since its inception. It is just that this new process contributes to already growing ways in which digital shenanigans get passed off as "truthful" representations of reality. I can see the Pentagon, politicians, advertising industry, and even more conventional mainstream news operations clamoring for the software. It's all part of the slippery slope of image production in the 21th Century.
Not only are the possibilities of digital manipulation so much greater with this process, there is also the very big question as to what will constitute copyright infringement. Even if Hays and Efros use 1/1,000,000 th of a picture made by someone else, even if they borrow a few pixels here and there without asking permission or paying the owner for that 1/1,000,000th, would they be infringing on someone's copyright? What is fair use when there's a program out scanning images on the web in order to make a whole new image?
It should not come as no great surprise that science would eventually figure out a way to semantically and seamlessly reconstruct images. We already have these processes in place.
However, the implications of this new method add fuel to the already burning argument that pictures could never be trusted as faithful reflections of reality. What you get is not what was seen, but rather only a few pixels here and there of possibly millions of other images.
Thanks to Daniel Sato for the inspiration and the link.
August 22, 2007 in altered images, consumer culture, Copyright, Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, digital literacy, digitally altered pictures, Fair Use , intellectual property, Internet Learning, James Hays, Journalism, Media Bias, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, new technologies, photo digital manipulation, photo fakery, photoblogs, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Photoshop, Picture Editing, scene completion, signification, technology, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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What do leggy women, newspapers, and sexual attraction have in common?
Editor & Publisher, the newspaper industry's leading trade publication, may need a little sensitivity training these days after people concerned with the objectification of women take a look at their latest promotion.
In an announcement for a photo contest, the organization ran an ad (see above) that can read in several different ways. Signification is the process of making sense of the things we see by interrogating the visual cues and associations represented. What we have here are faceless women, sets of legs, and newspapers without pictures.
The image is accompanied by the headline, "Papers without pictures just aren't very sexy." The associations implied suggest a relationship between newspaper photos, women and sex. We can assume that the people who approved such an advertisement were probably male, although it is hard to say with any assurance.
August 21, 2007 in consumer culture, Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, editor & publisher, Education, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, semiotics, sexual identity, signification, stereotypes, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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As our visual culture becomes accustomed to digital photography, are people becoming more apathetic about the digital alteration of pictures in the media? Will people come to expect that most of the pictures they view in the media today have been electronically enhanced in some way? If so, how will this acceptance, impact journalism and photography as a source of information and reportage?
Last year, I surveyed photographers about their attitudes and perceptions concerning the digital manipulation of photographs, especially within the context of news reportage. This year, I would like to continue to ask respondents about the alternation of images with a brand new survey. However, the questions in this survey are far broader with the hope of collecting responses from a wider audience. Just how serious are people about photo digital manipulation?
What I discovered last year was that only about half of the more than 480 respondents believed they could detect a picture when it was digitally altered. Only 6 percent strongly agreed with the statement, "I can tell when a photograph has been altered." At the same time, 85 percent of the respondent agreed that they had seen a digitally manipulated picture in the media within the last five years.
This year's annual survey is different in that it seeks to understand how people define photo digital manipulation. The survey also explores how significant digital manipulation is as an issue in society. Further, at the bottom of each question is an area for comments, which is something last year's survey lacked. Broad participation in this survey is encouraged as it is not only designed for professionals, but for enthusiasts as well.
July 01, 2007 in Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, digital cameras, digitally altered pictures, Journalism, Journalism Southern Oregon University, Media Bias, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, national press photographers association, photo digital manipulation, photo digital manipulation survey, photo fakery, Photoblogging, photoblogs, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Photoshop, Picture Editing, TED awards, visual journalism education, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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There are times when technology gets the better of us. Yesterday, for example, the technology driving the dynamic web design at MTV.com created irony when video from the Virgina Tech killing spree became juxtaposed against an advertisement promoting the new "Smokin' Aces" movie -- a film that promises to be full of bloodshed and mayhem.
Dynamic web content refers to an interactive design that places elements on a page in response to various contexts. However, this type of interactivity can also end up sending conflictive messages, especially since studies show that viewers do not navigate web content the same way in which they would read in a traditionanl print format.
To its credit, given the fact that technology can bump heads with social and cultural values, MTV is aware that issues such as this one can arise from time to time.
According to MTV, its news staff makes an effort to "....move on removing such inappropriate juxtapositions...Unfortunately, the system did not react as quickly as we did. We continue to do our best balancing the inevitable byproducts of dynamism."
At the same time, there appears to be a critical flaw in the increasingly blurry lines between news and advertising content these days on the web -- one that places a premium on making money through advertising over the common sense and good judgment of providing reader's with news.
Kate Zimmerman writes about another juxtaposition of questionable ad placement on Yahoo -- one which a reader views a story about the shootings next to an advertisement for L.L. Bean.
"The contextual ads shown against this story are almost completely irrelevant, if not inappropriate - further proof that contextual ad networks need human editors (or at the very least, a way for advertisers to safeguard against poor placement)."
April 16, 2007 in advertising, Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, digital literacy, Education, images of violence, Internet Learning, Media Bias, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Picture Editing, teaching, technology, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, visual violence, ways of seeing, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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The writer lists some of the high-tech features available
today in cameras such as, "red-eye" reduction and the elimination of
facial blemishes and pounds. Of course, there are even more features to
come, all of which will enhance our experiences, fix and frame reality
for us, and make the world a better place for our children.
Musgrove contends, "Digitally enhanced photos are starting to bump up against the real world. A few news photographers have lost their jobs for digitally tinkering with their shots, but there's weirder stuff afoot as well."
Without beating a dead pixel here, it's worthwhile considering the larger societal implications of a culture that will actually have to face up to the fact that photography has never been an objective process. Today, digital technology is forcing us to realize that we've been in denial about the process of making pictures since its inception.
We like to think that what we are seeing in a picture is real. Sure, a picture is real, but it also a social construction -- a contrivance of will, an act of authority, a whim, muse, or something that tickles our fancy. This is what's real about photography. When we freeze, fix, and frame a moment in time and space we are essentially excluding a million other moments that are equally as real. A picture is real only in the sense that it represents a fragment of reality. If we alter a fragment of the real in some way during or after a picture is made how much are we altering reality?
This is a particularly sticky problem for some of us when we begin to realize how the whole logic surrounding the notion of reality or what is real is flawed.
Pictures serve personal and public needs, and by doing so they exist contently within the realm of subjectivity.
Science and technology makes it possible to re-render reality in and out of the camera -- correct the objectionable -- make the imperfect, perfect.
Ultimately, what this really means is that in an imperfect world, digital technology makes it possible for life to appear picture perfect.
April 16, 2007 in altered images, Dennis Dunleavy, digital cameras, digital literacy, digitally altered pictures, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, Mike Musgrove, photo digital manipulation, photo fakery, Photo-ops, Photoblogging, photoblogs, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Photoshop, Picture Editing, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, Washington Post, ways of seeing, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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At a time when public confidence in journalism continues to slip, questionable professional practices or lapses in personal judgment are having as much an impact on the industry as they have on a given individual.
Last month, when, Toledo Blade photographer Allan Detrich digitally altered an image to make it less distracting, his actions, whether intentional or accidental, provide yet even more fuel to the fire of public distrust. Apparently, Detrich's creative license may prove to extend beyond this one incident.
We now have reached a point in our society when, at times, the media seems determined to abdicate a portion of its commitment to the truth, for expediency.
As a representative of an industry already under intense public scrutiny, Detrich, who recently resigned from the newspaper, now joins a growing list of photojournalists, such as Charlotte Observer photographer Patrick Schneider, Lebanese freelancer Adnan Hajj, and Los Angeles Times photographer Brian Walski, who have succumbed in recent years to the temptations of digital technology.
The big question these incidents raise is simple: Why do some photographers feel compelled to manipulate images, while others live with what they get? Getting to the answer, however, is far more complex and may reside actually in a culture, which excels in competition and individualism.
People do not like being lied to. Digital manipulation, the addition or subtraction of contributing or distracting elements in a frame, is a type of fraud and lying.
Jonathan Wallace observes, “The reason that I hate lies is because, like you, I wish to navigate carefully through life, and to do so I must be able to calculate my true position. When you lie to me, you know your position but you have given me false data which obscures mine.”
Journalists have always been moral agents of culture and societal tastes. News content falls within an informational/representational system that changes over time. Journalism has its good times and its bad times throughout history. Within this informational/representational system, however, truth has always remained a core journalistic virtue. Journalists must struggle to obtain and maintain truth in reportage because every situation they encounter is slightly different – always presenting differing degrees of moral complexity.
The act of altering an image to correct a deficiency may seem innocent enough on the surface, but deeper down the shift from fact to fiction signifies a moral choice that is informed by either ignorance or duplicity. Regardless of motive or rationale, Detrich’s case should remind us that journalists function to serve the public good through a series of professional and societal expectations and obligations that are imposed upon them.
In this digital age, these expectations and obligations become intensified to the point, where opportunities to make things look better or to get the better of the competition are just too easy.
Ultimately, it seems not to matter how rigorous and vigilant the media is in detecting and ousting those who lie through their photography and reporting. The damage is done -- public faith, once again, is lost.
April 13, 2007 in Allan Detrich, Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, Design, digital cameras, digital literacy, Journalism Southern Oregon University, Los Angeles Times, media consolidation, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, Moral complexity, photo collage, photo digital manipulation, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, Reuters, reuters adnan hajj, Southern Oregon University, teaching, technology, Toledo Blade, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, ways of seeing, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York reacts to seeing and old friend during a campaign stop at the National Education Association New Hampshire, in Concord, N.H., Friday, March 30, 2007.
As the race for the White House heats up, the role images play in shaping a candidate's public perception becomes increasingly critical. So much of modern-day campaigning seems determined by the candidate's "image" is presented to the public. In the heavily media mediated carnival of American politics today, there is always a chance that one candidate will come off looking like a jackass in the horse race. For some candidates, one bad picture can destroy all hope of victory.
Ever since Howard Dean's seemingly uninhibited emotional display in the last election, one would think that candidates would be hyper-sensitive about how they appeared in public, especially with the media following every move.
Social interaction theorist Erving Goffman, in his book "The Presentation of Self in Everday Life, describes the interaction between people as a kind of "performance" -- an "activity of a given participant on a given occasion which serves to influence in any way any of the other participants." Goffman's analysis of social behavior is an appropriate way of thinking about how politicians act in public.
The question this raises, especially in studying the image of Hillary Clinton's startled expression, is whether or not politicians regard the media as participants in the performance. In other words, do politicians come to a point where they ignore the presence of the media covering them. Clearly, there appears to be little room for spontaneity in terms of how expressive candidates can be in front of the cameras.
Despite the pretense of "truth" that comes with fixing and framing a moment in time, there is always a feeling of internal conflict in terms of slicing life into fragments, especially when the moment misrepresents an individual's complex personality. Some critics of the media might view the picture of Ms. Clinton as a biased "cheap shot", while others might defend it as the "truth."
In a recent thread concerning the objectivity of news photographs, Rishi's comments have a great deal of substance.
We have come to regard photographs as 'true' or 'truthful' representations of acts based on our faith in media reportage(questionable). At the turn of the 20th century & even much later, a photograph along with a news piece in a newspaper provided a window into the happening of that act, which in turn strengthened our belief in the authenticity of the photograph. But we have come a long way now and photographs may not necessarily depict truth, but rather attempt to provide a grip around social, cultural & political scenarios based on the levels of our visual literacy."
April 03, 2007 in celebrities, Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, iconic images, Journalism, Journalism Southern Oregon University, Media Criticism, Media Manipulation, Photo-ops, photographic ritual, Photographs and Politics, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Political pictures, politics, Politics and Photography, propaganda, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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In today's hyper-mediated world of images, truth has become a casualty of commerce.
It is more important today, it would seem, to sell us an image representing a concocted truth, than it is to make images that honestly portray reality and that earnestly speak truth to power.
Ever since an altered picture of OJ Simpson appeared on the cover of TIME nearly 15 years ago, magazine editors and designers have been continually pushing the boundaries of believability and authenticity.
It's now appears acceptable to use images that once functioned within the context of news as something far more rhetorical in nature. From a rhetorical perspective, the the Reagan Team image is loaded with meaning. Therefore, the interpretation of the image goes far beyond the literal and moves in the realm of the figurative and symbolic.
We've seen this over and again when iconic images such as Rosenthal's "Iwo Jima flag raising" and Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother" are altered to illustrate a specific idea or concept.
In other words, editors have been extending the meaning of news images for a very long time by adding and subtracting elements, changing the tone, and most especially altering the context. In this instance, it's interesting to note that the editors credited not only the photographer for the portrait of Reagan (David Hume Kennerly), but also the photographer who made the image of the tear drop (Tim O'Brien) running down Reagan's cheek.
For photographer Patrick Ryan the manipulation does a disservice to a profession that has seeks to maintain its credibility in the eyes of the public.
"I'm insulted and, frankly, disappointed," Ryan write on a post to the National Press Photographers Association list-serve.
"I expected better. Our credibility is being challenged more and more everyday, and Time goes and adds fuel to the fire. If you are going to clearly alter the intent of a photograph, you better label it an illustration or such."
From a sociological perspective, the public's capacity to distinguish between legitimate and an altered new pictures is unclear. In today's hyper-saturated visual culture people have developed a tolerance for ambiguity between what is real and what it fake.
As time blurs perception and reality , Reagan's tear may be perceived as authentic by many. The collage presents Reagan as something other than what we have come to understand through his media-mediated public persona.
In this sense, TIME, with its altered image, constructs how we think about Reagan. Even lacking verisimilitude, the assemblage of the two distinct visual elements -- Ronald Reagan face and Ronald Reagan's tear -- is confounding.
As Ryan contends, "I used to trust the content of images in print, but with the ease of Photoshop, etc., it's harder and harder to believe what I see. Time is supposed to be above that."
Another interesting point concerning this illustration is the placement of the tear. In the picture, the tear seems to be away from the tear duct. For example, in this image from "Feed the Children," it is clear that tears begin to well up at the tear duct.
Photo Credit: Feed the Children
The design of the TIME cover is clearly driven by the rationale of aesthetics and persuasive determinacy. It has long been argued that magazine covers do not function primarily as news. Instead, many designers will tell you, magazine covers are designed to attract attention and sell magazines.
Writing on the same NPPA list-serve thread Gregory David Stempel sums up this issue well when he observes:
"Keep in mind, we have reached a point in our society where the foremost goal of any business (including "the news") is share holder satisfaction. And to that end it appears, anything goes. Just about everyone in the developed economies of this planet have figured out a way to justify almost anything they desire. We have without much hesitation, compromised truth, integrity, ethics, decency and fairness."
March 17, 2007 in Journalism, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, Political pictures, portrait photography, propaganda, Ronald Reagan, semiotics, Southern Oregon University, teaching, Time magazine, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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How much of what we know about the human costs of war do we let in to impact us in profound ways?
Although there are remarkable and powerful images of war to remind us of the unthinkable horrors human beings continue to suffer, it appears that for the most part we rarely truly learn from them.
Although we appear fascinated by the sacrifice people endure for a cause, noble or ignoble, most of the pictures that remind us of those sacrifices seem all about ignored.
The pictures we see of dead and wounded civilians and soliders in times of conflict become social artifacts that may or may not stir our emotions or move us to action.
In recent times, we have seen how Joe Rosenthal's picture of a band of Marines raising a flag on a tiny island in the Pacific could mobilize millions of Americans in the war effort during WWII.
Later, we have seen how another image could have just the opposite affect, as Nick Ut's picture of a young girl running naked down a road after she was burned in an aerial attack on her village by the South Vietnamese Air Force, with U.S. support.
Images such as those by Rosenthal and Ut remain embedded in our collective consciousness because of how often they are repeated and recollected in our visual culture. When we speak of patriotism and sacrifice, or, of so-called the "good war", the Iwo Jima flag raising image seems to always come to the forefront of our common discourse. When we speak of atrocities and failed U.S. foreign policy, so too, do we find referencing the incident at Trang Bang, Vietnam, where a little girl and nations were changed forever.
Recently, a photographer in Southern Illinois has made an image, or a series of images, that should become emblematic of what critics are beginning to call the current quagmire in Iraq.
The picture by Nina Berman of Redux, is a wedding portrait of a Marine who had been burned over much of his body. Although badly disfigured from a bomb blast in Iraq, his facial features all but melted away to bone, Ty Ziegel lives to tell his story to the world.
The picture, as simple as a picture can be, makes us want to listen. The picture makes us cry out in empathy, muster hope in the presence of such incredible human spirit and strength, or simply cringe in disgust. In the end, however, it is the couples resolve that makes us want to listen.
In a recent article in Salon.com, photographer Berman suggests, "What makes pictures interesting is that they provide the space for the viewers to contemplate."
Contemplation is a form of listening to our innermost feelings about the things we see. Contemplation, if given space, moves us to act on our feelings. To contemplate the explicit and implicit meaning of Berman's image means to imagine our own lives transformed by war as Ty Ziegel's life has been.
Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and writer, once observed that "True contemplation is inseparable from life and from the dynamism of life--which includes work, creation, production, fruitfulness, and above all love. "
"Contemplation is not to be thought of as a separate department of life, cut off from all man's other interests and superseding them. It is the very fullness of a fully integrated life. It is the crown of life and all life's activities."
Berman's wedding portrait has received acclaim in photojournalism. In fact, it won top honors in the portrait category of the World Press Photo competition this year. But it is not the picture, as an object or artifact, that should be admired and remembered. What should be contemplated here, first and foremost, is that the judges recognize the saliency and value of the content within the frame. The space Berman speaks of here moves beyond the rancor of congressional debates and presidential pomposity. The space Berman speaks of gets to the core of some of the most essential qualities of being human -- love, loyalty, hope, and reconciliation. Can a picture evoke the "big" ideas expressed here? Apparently so.
How will history remember Ty Ziegel's wedding picture? How could this unassuming portrait of a wedding couple become the next Iwo Jima or Trang Bang in the collective memory of wars past and present?
What distinguishes the pictures is less a matter of aesthetics and more a more of politics. For the Iwo Jima picture the U.S. government adopted the image as mass marketed it as the embodiment of the "good war." In the case of the Trang Bang picture, the anti-war movement of the 1970s embraced symbolism of the moment as proof of the so-called "dirty little war."
Pictures, in iconic terms, extend beyond the meaning of occurrences in several ways. Iconic pictures, such as the hooded prisoner of Abu Ghraib, signify ideological bench marks in history -- turning points -- in the cultural memory of American society.
It is only through the assimilation of an ideological benchmark image into our visual culture as a form of a larger societal discourse that an iconic permanance can emerge. Although the Berman image has been seen now by ten of thousands of web-watchers, it will not be until we see the picture on billboards, war posters, and TV screens that its status as an iconic image will endure as a product of social consciousness.
March 10, 2007 in Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, Education, iconic images, images of violence, Internet Learning, Iraq, Iraq War, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, Moral complexity, nina berman, photo digital manipulation, Photoblogging, photoblogs, photographic ritual, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, pictures of the year, Political pictures, portrait photography, President Bush, ritual, semiotics, signification, teaching, Trang Bang Vietnam, Ty Ziegel, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, Visual Rhetoric and Metaphor, visual violence, war photography, ways of seeing, Web/Tech, World Press Pictures of the Year | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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The U.S. military is confirming that soldiers had deleted media photographs and video after an incident which killed up to 10 civilians on Sunday.
Rahmat Gul, a photographer working for the Associated Press, said U.S. soldiers took his camera from him in order to delete pictures he made showing the wreckage of a destroyed four-wheel drive vehicle. The soldiers then returned the camera. A TV crew covering the same incident also had tape deleted.
Later, a U.S. military spokesperson said "The journalists had gone beyond a security perimeter and had been asked to remove their images to "protect the integrity of the investigation."
Even if the soldiers deleted the pictures, a simple $30 digital picture software recovery program could most likely restore the files. So, why did the soldiers want to stop the press from making pictures of the scene?
Could the Marines have been attempting to cover up the incident?
The Marines say no. In fact, the official response is that the soldiers were trying to keep the images from the world because they feared the scene had been tampered with prior to the arrival of the media. Major William Mitchell later told AFP, "We have reminded our forces in the area that only in extreme circumstances is this practice condoned."
This is an interesting remark coming from a person of power, because in a war zone all circumstances are EXTREME. In a split second, then, how are soldiers, who are caught in the heat of battle or the aftermath of something else terrible, expected to make decisions about what or what not to allow the media to cover?
Given the recent history of this conflict, along with all the bad press the military is getting, Mitchell's logic is fuzzy and may be impossible to carry out in the future. In other words, what the major and others are telling us here is that we'll try really hard not to censor the press, but we can't guarantee it. The big picture reality is that no matter what the truth may be in sorting this mess out, the wrong message has already been sent to the world.
For the U.S. military, another firestorm of criticism may be waiting to erupt as early reports of the incident raise more questions than answers about how the troops dealt with the press on the scene.
It could be that any public relations efforts by the Marines may be already too late to restore public perception and faith in the war effort given the legacy of charges of abuse aimed at U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
March 05, 2007 in Associated Press, Battle-Hardened Troops, censorship, Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, images of violence, Iraq, Iraq War, Journalism, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, photographic ritual, photography, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, prisoner abuse, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, visual perception, visual violence, war photography, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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In January 2004, Kodak announced it would stop making film cameras. Faced with the reality that film was rapidly being pushed aside by digital technologies, George Eastman’s company was in turmoil. In fact, in the first years of the new century, the firm cut more than 22,000 jobs.
For Kodak, the writing had been on the wall for some time as digital cameras were already outselling their cousins in film by leaps and bounds. In 2003, more than 50 million digital cameras were sold, an increase of 64 percent from the previous year.
Today, the digital camera market is flattening out. As the market becomes increasingly saturated with product, digital camera sales are predicted to peak at 111 million by 2009. Nevertheless, there seems to be no turning back. More than a century earlier, George Eastman, Kodak’s founder, dreamed of making photography an “everyday affair.” Consider Eastman’s surprise at how much photography has changed since the day he hit the street promoting his Kodak One to the public.
The introduction of the digital camera has changed how people act in front of and behind the lens. The act of reviewing the picture immediately after capture, similar to the affect Edwin Land’s Polaroid, alters the interpersonal dynamic between subject and photographer significantly.
The time of Eastman’s “everyday affair” has come in an age of instant everything. Digital photography is making how people communicate cheaper, faster and easier than ever.
The immediacy of digital photography has several advantages over older technologies beyond speed and cost. The digital photography allows people to be more productive, feel more creatively empowered, and to develop greater levels of social interaction than previously experienced with older technologies.
Digital photography has a democratizing impact in that ultimately increases social and empathic interactions, greater productivity, and creative empowerment. At the same time, the seamless and malleable nature of the digital format raises, once again, concerns about the authenticity and veracity of the image.
From a social psychological perspective, thanks to digital technologies, human visual behavior in the age of instant becomes a fascinating and ever changing challenge.
Increasingly, for many of us, the world in which we live has been defined not only through our direct experience with it, but also through the pictures we carry in our heads about it. Advertising images, television, still pictures, and now just about everything about Internet, provide us with a relentless stream of mediated visual messages.
Young people now experience the world radically different from their ancestors. Growing up in the age of instant means that people learn about themselves predominantly through the likenesses and representations created by others.
The images we see in print or on a screen map a world view, construct and define desires and fears, create self and group identity, promote societal likes and dislikes, and promulgate a collective memory.
On the day we dropped our toddler off at daycare for the first time we included a tiny book of family photographs. Feeling guilty that day for having to leave our child with strangers, we believed that the pictures would be a consoling influence for her throughout the day.
In grocery store we avoid the cereal aisle knowing well that the brightest, most colorful, and most seductive boxes of cereal, designed to attract the attention of little ones, are always placed on the lowest shelves for easy viewing. Pictures, as a form of persuasive communication, inform, shock, terrify, tease, inspire, entertain, teach, seduce, and console us emotionally and intellectually.
“We thus live in an era in which it is difficult to conceive of even a single human activity that does not use photography, or at least provide an opportunity for it to be deployed in the past, present or future.”
Ariella Azoulay, (2005). The Ethic of the Spectator: The Citizenry of Photography. After Image: 33
What is unique about the photograph is the almost instant capacity to substantiate our experiences, and by extension, our very existence in time and place. The only problem now is that in a world already saturated with images, we continue to produce more and more of them. If cultures are shaped through ritual and routine, then, images play a significant role in process as an on-going medium of recollection.
February 24, 2007 in Current Affairs, Dennis Dunleavy, Education, Journalism Southern Oregon University, Media Criticism, Media Ethics, Media Manipulation, photographic ritual, photography, Photojournalism, photojournalism criticism, photojournalism education, Picture Editing, visual culture citicism, visual journalism education, ways of seeing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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