Wednesday, January 24, 2007Home

The Three "I"s for Photojournalists

Peter Marshall has posted his take on Reuters' Photoshop commandments, as well as an article listing his own ideas about photographic conduct. They revolve around three 'I's: Intelligence, Integrity, and Intention. The presence of online watchdogs, in the form of bloggers and forums, is felt more and more, and the old tricks don't seem to be cutting it anymore (remember the edited images of Lebanon from last year's war? That guy needs a Photoshop course). Reuters has followed one course to ensure integrity; Marshall has suggested his own. For those accustomed to doing things the old way, these three "I"s may be the most difficult hurdles of all.

I don't have a great deal of sympathy for the approach taken by Reuters, which has detailed prescriptions on the use of Photoshop—specifying for example the exact maximum amount of sharpening that can be applied, and at the same time prohibiting tools that sharpen less destructively than Photoshop itself. Partly because some of these restrictions are nonsensical, but largely because the whole approach seems faulty. Different cameras, different pictures, and different situations need different treatment, and it is a part of the professionalism of the photographer to give it.

As a blogger, journalist, and E-writer, I dislike the obsessive formalities that exist in so many areas of publishing, made even more so in contrast to cyberspace. New rules mingle with old, the latter usually entrenched by decades of an industry being mindful of the expenses involved with print, and the exclusion of those who can't abide by the rules. It may be the relative "newness" of the internet, as well as its cheap costs for publishers, that causes more flexibility. The very idea of a "publisher" is changing: press announcements are circulated amid families of websites, and everyone, from the local trade newspapers to the national news, is trying to publicize a blog (and borrowing from YouTube all the way).

We bloggers are riding a very popular wave, so we look like media surf kings. None of us need be reminded, however, what eventually happens to the really big waves. This is not just an argument on how to enforce honesty, but an examination on how we should perceive it.

At its basis is the misconception that a photograph is some kind of factual impression that events themselves stamp onto film or pixels, that can be peeled off as a facsimile, photograph encapsulating the fact in some kind of crystal-clear amber.

Life isn’t like that, and working as a photographer or any kind of reporter certainly isn’t.

Well put. Photography, journalism, and nearly all other forms of human expression will always be flawed. Embellishment is unavoidable, even for the most well-meaning and driven.


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