Thursday, August 9, 2007

Photographic Truths: "gray areas".

As straightforward as the term truth sounds ... it's a very murky term ... There's a lot of weight in the phrase, "There's two side to every story" ... so which version is true??? Thats the gray area ...

# Sun rises in east and sets in west - Universal Truth.

# But issues like acceptance of gays in mainstream culture or racial discrimination in contemporary society ... are extremely contentious issues and the truth are very subjective in nature ... For every person who claims not that he/she doesnt feel discriminated there will be another one to claim just the opposite. So whats the "truth" in these cases??? ... It differes from person to person. So the very notion that there's just one truth, does not always hold ... sometimes there are GRAY AREAS ... Sometimes there are two sides of a story ... and both are true ...

# When the truth itself is murky, how far is the notion of photographic truths valid???

# It is generally accepted that journalist / documentary photographs should not be "digitally manipulated" ... Now if we compare with WRITING with PHOTOGRAPHS ... we see that in newspaper reports the texts are EDITED... spelling and grammatical errors are corrected [with softwares like wordprocessor]... These spelling and grammatical errors are analogous to technical errors in photography, like overexposure/underexposure ... so why is photographic manipulation not accepted????

I guess the issue is of "public trust" ... the moment an image is subjected to corrections, how much has been altered becomes a question mark. The ease with which an image can be altered, in some way explains the mistrust. I guess people hold photographic images in higher standard compared to written words ... "A photo speaks a thousand words", is very accepted notion when it comes to news items ... So I guess, that's the reason why such high ethical guidelines are applied for journalistic photographs ... So it's better to leave an image with technical flaws than to lose public trust and confidence.

# But a more important issue [than editiing] is the issue of "editorializing" ... Now this is a GRAY area ...
- A news reporter can use emotionally charged language to create a subjcetive bias ..
- The positing of newsitem on a paper ... front page or innerpages is another way to bring out the importance or lack of it ...

Similarly a photographer can choose to frame his photos in a way to highlight or downplay a particular instance ... A crowd at a public meeting can be shown with a lot of crowd and lot of empty space ... there are many many such instances, where personal bias can ne added to photographs ...

So if a person is looking for absolute photographic truths, it maybe questionable at times ... But it has more to do with the nature of the word "truth" itself ... sometimes truth is subjective [like racial discrimination] ... Sometimes truth has more than one dimensions [there are many stories of police heroism as well as police brutality] ... and the whole truth emcompasses all these various dimensions ... so one image may be representative of one version of the story ... but not the whole truth ...

And if we are looking for news reports, the means at our disposal are text, painting or photographs ... and here, photographs definitely emerge as a clear winner. So despite its limitations that photographic images have; it is still the best means we have, to convey news and preserve whats happening today for the posterity ...

A very good writeup on this issue is here ... "Digital Manipulation: Responsibilities of Photojournalism", click here ...

* As simple as this write-up may seem, i found it a complex issue to handle ... I was thinking about writing on this since Monday and only by Thursday I was able to organize some thoughts on my mind ... I think this topic would continue, as I am incredibly fascinated by jounalists and the professional dilemmas that they face ...

4 comments:

The Hermit of Wandering Thoughts said...

With the technology and software as it is today the line will become more blurred as time goes on...

Photographic Evidence is no longer believable..
cheers
z

Jyoti said...

Well zofo,
I still trust what I see in the newsmedia ... "mostly"
although I dont trust magazines as much ...

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