"A Picture of Reality"
Qualified Objectivity in Visual Journalism
Soon [after its invention] the photograph was considered incontestable proof of an event, experience, or state of being.
—The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia1
Any discussion of "manipulated" photography must begin with the recognition that photography itself is an inherent manipulation—a manipulation of light, a process with many steps and stages, all subject to the biases and interpretations of the photographer, printer, editor, or viewer. Photography is not absolute "reality." It is not unqualified "truth." It is not purely "objective." It was never any of those things, and it has been subject to distortion since its inception. Indeed, many of its earliest practitioners were more concerned with concocting fantasy than documenting reality. They were artists, not journalists.
Still, throughout the century and a half of its existence, one branch of photography—the sometimes loosely defined "photojournalism"—has acquired a special standing in the public mind, a confidence that a photo can reflect reality in a uniquely compelling and credible way. 2 Indeed, public faith in the veracity of photography is almost as old as photography itself. In The Origins of Photojournalism in America, Michael Carlebach explains that even in the days when photographs were typically recast as woodcuts or steel engravings prior to printing, viewers recognized their basis in photographic processes and regarded them as reliable depictions of actual events. 3 From the 1850s throughout the Victorian era, realistic images were viewed with the wildly popular stereograph, a handheld viewer whose side- by-side photographs approximated a three-dimensional effect. Though now
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Phototruth or Photofiction? Ethics and Media Imagery in the Digital Age. Contributors: Tom Wheeler - Author. Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Place of publication: Mahwah, NJ. Publication year: 2002. Page number: 3.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.