In response to my tutor’s comments about my learning log for assignment 4, I have gone back to some of the suggested reading about the ethics of digitally manipulating images. The first thing to say is that most of these references go back to the early 2000’s and some before that and I suppose the reason for that was that Photoshop and the like were still relatively new then so this really was very topical at this time, whereas now we have probably come to accept it more.
In one of the first articles I read; Colburn, J. 2003. We’re Screwed, http://digitaljournalist.org/issue0403/colburn.html, the author, James Colburn discusses 2 images which have been deliberately manipulated to suggest that Jane Fonda had been at a political rally with the then Democratic Candidate John Kerry. I seems that in the photograph that was published, Jane Fonda had been ‘photoshoped’ from one image into the other for political reasons and the authors of the original photographs were rightly upset. In this particular case, both authors had the original rolls of film and were able to prove their innocence, but Colburn then asks the question, what would have happened had these images been taken with digital cameras? He goes on to site David Hockney as having said that ‘modern photography is now so extensively and easily altered that it can no longer be seen as true or factual’. I’m not sure now that this would be such an issue if the imaged had been shot in RAW as the authors should still be able to produce the original files, but I suppose one the reasons that I resisted a digital camera for so long was for exactly that reason. There was a suggestion too that the skill had gone out of photography because all you had to do was alter the image to how you wanted it in Photoshop or the like.
To go back to the ethical issues though, clearly it is wrong to manipulate other people’s’ images without their knowledge and then to use them for such blatant propaganda in this way. I’d like to be able to say that this sort of thing would not happen now, but I think we have all read and heard about how newspapers and politicians manipulate information for their own ends.