L’amour, c’est l’infini mis à la portée des caniches. Céline
Il faut peut-être entendre par démocratie les vices de quelques-uns à la portée du plus grand nombre. Henry Becque
La démocratisation et la fausse démocratisation n’ont conduit qu’à donner aux peuples souverains ou faussement souverains les vices des capitaines. Charles Péguy
Tout art est une révolte contre la morale traditionnelle. Eric Gill (1927)
L’idée selon laquelle ce qui est en face de l’objectif doit être vrai ne correspond qu’à un sens occidental de la réalité. Mary Warner Marien (université de Syracuse)
In my own reality, I know that these things did happen. But “without him in them, I can display them. I can look at those pictures and think of the laughter we were sharing, the places we went to. This new reality is a lot more pleasant. Laura Horn (police emergency dispatcher, Rochester)
If you can’t have the perfect family, at least you can Photoshop it. Heather Downs (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
It used to be that photographs provided documentary evidence, and there was something sacrosanct about that. What we’re doing is fulfilling the wish that all of us have to make reality to our liking. Chris Johnson (California College of the Arts in the Bay Area)
Although we may have the impression that photographic tampering is something relatively new – a product of the digital age – the reality is that history is riddled with photographic fakes.(…) the air-brushing of images by brutal dictators took place as a matter of course. (…) Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Fidel Castro all indulged in a spot of pre-PC Photoshopping to eradicate enemies from pictures. (…) Although there are many historical examples of photographic fakes, time-consuming and cumbersome darkroom techniques were required to create them. And so it wasn’t unreasonable for most people to believe that they could put their trust in photographs. Hany Farid
Attention: une photo peut en cacher une autre !
REMOVING her ex-husband from more than a decade of memories may take a lifetime for Laura Horn, a police emergency dispatcher in Rochester. But removing him from a dozen years of vacation photographs took only hours, with some deft mouse work from a willing friend who was proficient in Photoshop, the popular digital-image editing program.Like a Stalin-era technician in the Kremlin removing all traces of an out-of-favor official from state photos, the friend erased the husband from numerous cherished pictures taken on cruises and at Caribbean cottages, where he had been standing alongside Ms. Horn, now 50, and other traveling companions.“In my own reality, I know that these things did happen,” Ms. Horn said. But “without him in them, I can display them. I can look at those pictures and think of the laughter we were sharing, the places we went to.”“This new reality,” she added, “is a lot more pleasant.”As image-editing software grows in sophistication and ubiquity, alterations go far beyond removing red-eye and whitening teeth. They include substituting head shots to achieve the best combination of smiles, deleting problematic personalities or adding family members who were unable to attend important events, performing virtual liposuction or hair restoration, even reanimating the dead. Revisionist history, it seems, can be practiced by just about anyone.As people fiddle with the photos in their scrapbooks, the tug of emotion and vanity can win out over the objective truth. And in some cases, it can even alter memories — Cousin Andy was at the wedding, right?In an age of digital manipulation, many people believe that snapshots and family photos need no longer stand as a definitive record of what was, but instead, of what they wish it was.“It used to be that photographs provided documentary evidence, and there was something sacrosanct about that,” said Chris Johnson, a photography professor at California College of the Arts in the Bay Area.If you wanted to remove an ex from an old snapshot, you had to use a Bic pen or pinking shears. But in the digital age, people treat photos like mash-ups in music, combining various elements to form a more pleasing whole.“What we’re doing,” Mr. Johnson said, “is fulfilling the wish that all of us have to make reality to our liking.”And he is no exception. When he photographed a wedding for his girlfriend’s family in upstate New York a few years ago, he left a space at the end of a big group shot for one member who was unable to attend. They caught up with him months later, snapped a head shot, and Mr. Johnson used Photoshop to paste him into the wedding photo.Now, he said, everyone knows it is phony, but “this faked photograph actually created the assumption — people kind of remember him as there.”THE impulse to record family history that is more wishful than accurate is as old as photography itself. In the 19th century, people routinely posed with personal items, like purses or scarves, that belonged to absent or dead relatives to include them, emotionally, in the frame, said Mary Warner Marien, an art history professor at Syracuse University and the author of “Photography: A Cultural History.”
In India, she said, it is a tradition to cut-and-paste head shots of absent family members into wedding photographs as a gesture of respect and inclusion. “Everyone understands that it’s not a trick,” she said. “That’s the nature of the photograph. It’s a Western sense of reality that what is in front of the lens has to be true.”
As recently as early in this decade, most people still recorded their family history primarily in film, photography experts said, meaning modifications were limited. Even among digital devotees, only professionals or ambitious amateurs typically would buy computer programs like Adobe Photoshop.
But now, with the professional-grade Photoshop CS3’s consumer-priced sibling, Photoshop Elements, often selling for under $100, its popularity is on the rise. Sales for the program have grown about 20 percent over the last year, said Kevin Connor, an Adobe vice president.
Similar software like GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Program ) is free on the Internet. Photo kiosks in supermarkets, as well as popular photo programs like iPhoto and Picasa, can also manipulate photographs. In addition, professional retouching services, which can dramatically alter photographs, are burgeoning, often advertising on the Internet. And professional photographers will also alter reality to suit a client’s tastes.
After her father died several years ago, Theresa Newman Rolley, an accountant in Williamsport, Pa., hired Wayne Palmer, a photographic retoucher, to create a composite portrait of the two of them because she had no actual one of them together.
That photograph — of a moment that never happened — now hangs in her living room. It still brings tears to her eyes, she said.
“It’s the only picture of my dad and me together,” Ms. Rolley said, adding, “If the only reason I can get one is cropping it in, it still means the same to me.”
Such manipulations represent “a new coping mechanism for us,” said Heather Downs, a visiting assistant professor of sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who has studied the role photographs play in families. Idealized images , she said, can give people “a new script for dealing with problems families have always had: family members who don’t get along, divorce.”
“If you can’t have the perfect family,” she added, “at least you can Photoshop it.”
Ellen Robinson, a volunteer college trustee in Denver, commissioned Sara Frances, a local photographer, to shoot a formal family portrait to hang prominently in their new house. Working for $150 an hour, Ms. Frances changed expressions of family members and swapped the dog’s head between images. She slenderized bodies, adjusted skin tones and changed the color of several outfits to make for a more unified palette. She even straightened the collar on one son’s shirt.
“You’re spending a lot of money on these portraits,” Ms. Robinson said. “They’re supposed to last a lifetime — generations, really. So why not get a helping hand to do it right?”
Photography has always represented, to some degree, a distortion of reality, said Per Gylfe, the manager of the digital media lab at the International Center of Photography in New York. A photographer can create different impressions of the same scene by including some elements in the frame and omitting others, by changing lenses, or by tweaking the color and tone of the image in the darkroom.
“We’ve always taken photographs as proofs of events, and we probably never should have,” Mr. Gylfe said.
The motivation to craft an idealized image of oneself or one’s family is even greater in an era when the family photo album is migrating from the closet to the Internet. In addition, people are growing more accepting of fakery in photography, in part because doctored photographs — and commentary about them — are so pervasive online.
An incident last month in which the Iranian government apparently manipulated an image of a missile test to show off the size of its arsenal became blog fodder around the world.
Exposing photo fakery has become an entertainment genre of its own on the blog Photoshop Disasters, which catalogs the more obvious examples taken from magazines, newspapers, advertisements and other media.
“The entire media climate is filled with manipulation,” said Fred Ritchin, a professor of photography and imaging at New York University. Therefore, he added, “on the level of family and friends, there’s much less resistance to altering images.”
INDEED, in a world where so many images of the beautiful and famous are enhanced, ordinary people sometimes believe they need to prettify pictures of themselves just to keep pace. Keze Stroebel-Haft, 23, a retoucher for an advertising agency in San Francisco, said she uses Photoshop to remove blemishes or double chins from photos of herself she posts on MySpace and Facebook.
“It’s everywhere,” she said. “On the covers of magazines, all the beautiful women are Photoshopped, their skin is cleaned up. Everybody does it.”
But even as evolving technology gives people more power to reconstruct their personal histories, those old, unretouched photographs in their family album retain a powerful psychological value.
Alan D. Entin, a clinical psychologist in Richmond, Va., uses patients’ family photographs as raw material to inspire discussion and analysis of their roles and relationships within their family.
“They’re a record,” he said. “They have existed over time and space. They are important documents.”
To alter them is to invite self-deception, he said. “The value to accepting a photograph of yourself as you are is that you’re accepting the reality of who you are, and how you look, and accepting yourself that way, warts and all. I think the pictures you hate say as much about you as pictures you love.”
Is it real, or is it Photoshop?
How can we believe anything we see anymore? With today’s technology, we can literally do anything we want with images.In the example see above, we have changed the red color of M8, the Lagoon Nebula, whose main spectral emission lies in the red portion of the spectrum, to blue with a simple adjustment in Photoshop.When photography was first invented, its overwhelming power came from the fact that it recorded nature more realistically than any other art form had ever done before. Because of this, people trusted it and believed it portrayed « reality » and « truth ».But, just as story telling could portray the « truth » with an accurate accounting of the facts, it could just as easily become fiction. Fake and manipulated photographs – visual fiction – began circulating not long after the invention of photography.With the invention of motion pictures, and certainly television, the public came to know that not every picture they saw was necessarily factual in its depiction of reality.Historical Image ManipulationMany people think that the manipulation of images started with the invention of Photoshop, but there have been fake photographs since the invention of photography.Arthur Conon Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, believed these photos to be real, and wrote pamphlets attesting to their truthfulness. Even today some people believe these photographs are real.At about the same time, photographic composites of different images were created by commercial photographic studios to bring family members together into one picture when they were not together in reality for the portrait session (right).Notice that the three people on the left in the image appear to be floating in mid air in this photographic portrait of the Daquilla family from the early 20th century by A. Werner and Sons in New York.They were apparently cut out of other photos and pasted on top of a photo of the woman at right and re-photographed in a composite image.Ethics and AestheticsWhen we correct, manipulate and enhance images in Photoshop, we must deal with questions of both ethics and aesthetics. This discussion is not only limited to digital manipulation, but also includes conventional darkroom methods.Ethics are a set of rules that we invent that define what we think is good and bad. The dictionary says ethics are « a set of moral principles or values » and that ethical means « conforming to accepted professional standards of conduct ».
Aesthetics, on the other hand, deal with the nature of beauty, art and taste, and things that are pleasing in appearance.
With digital processing, there is almost no limit to what can be done to an image, and many things are done to images with the best intentions. The question is, when does the pursuit of aesthetics violate our ethics?
Changes can be made to images that are undetectable, so much so that there is now discussion that photographs will no longer be allowed as evidence in courts of law.
Today’s viewers however, are very sophisticated visually. They know full well that anything, literally, can be done to an image. They have seen dinosaurs and aliens portrayed with lifelike realism in the movies. Problems arise though because viewers expect to be fooled in the movies, and tend to get upset and feel betrayed when they are fooled in an allegedly factual medium such as the news business.
In this discussion, there will be no simple black and white answers, everything will fall along a continuum and it is humans who decide the rules for what is considered ethical behavior and these rules can and do change over time.
The Myths of Objective Reality and Absolute Truth
As for changing the contents of an image, personally I don’t think much of the practice. For example, consider an image that shows a double exposure of a gigantic moon or an eclipse shot with a telephoto lens and a foreground scene that was shot with a wide angle. It’s fake. I know it immediately when I look at it. A scene like that can’t exist in nature. It doesn’t do anything for me. I also know how difficult it is to take a photo of the real thing, and personally I place a tremendous amount of value on knowing an image is an attempt at being accurate.However, other people might find a big moon in a wide-angle scene interesting and really enjoy it. On several occasions I have seen both photographically knowledgeable people, as well as the general public, get really excited over such an image. In my opinion, as long as the artist does not try to misrepresent what they are doing and methods are completely explained in the caption, it is an aesthetic judgment as to their success or failure.I think the acceptance and popularity of images like this are mostly due to the proclivities of the viewer – they would rather be entertained and don’t care that much that they were fooled. In fact, many people take great delight in being fooled, for example, at magic shows.Most people who willingly suspend disbelief do so only in the context of entertainment and fiction. Although you could argue that others, such as those who really believe in things such as ghosts and fairies, have different, lower, standards of credulity than most rational, scientifically inclined people.
What most people get justifiably upset at is when someone intentionally lies and presents something as truthful when it is not.
ExceptionsIn some situations it would be unethical not to digitally alter the content of a photograph, such as when a photo definitely records something incorrectly, such as red eye. The red eye would never have been there if we didn’t change the original scene by adding the flash.
Another example would be correcting the green cast of an image shot under fluorescent lights on daylight film. Our eyes adapt to the green color of the light and we see it as normal in the scene, but the daylight film actually records it accurately as green. You would have a hard time getting most people to accept that the green is more « truthful ».
Blue Moon Composite
In other cases, the only way to present a truer representation of reality is through a composite rather than with a single exposure.
For instance this photograph of the moon over the Philadelphia skyline is a fairly accurate representation of the scene as it really appeared to the eye.
However, there was no way to take this image in a single exposure because of the difference in brightness between the full moon and the foreground – some 14 stops difference.
Two exposures were made, one correct for the moon, and one correct for the foreground. They were then composited together in Photoshop. The moon is in the exact location it was when the photo was taken, and both photos were made with the same focal length lens.
The result was more true to the reality of the scene and the way it really looked than a single exposure could have captured. In this case the only way to faithfully represent the original scene was through some Photoshop « trickery ». Was this truthful and ethical? I believe so and the procedure was fully explained in the caption.
Now, if I had moved the moon to make it better in composition, would I have crossed the ethical line if I presented this as a documentary photo? Yes, I think so.
Purposes and intentionsThe important questions when we manipulate an image are, why are we doing this, and what are our purposes and intentions? Where do we draw the line? What is ethical in the digital manipulation and enhancement of a photo?
To answer these questions we must consider why we took the picture and what we are going to do with it. If the picture is taken for artistic purposes only, then pretty much anything goes because only aesthetic considerations come into play. If the photo was taken for documentary or journalistic reasons, then another set of ethical considerations come into play that have been developed by the photographer and the viewers of the image.
My personal opinion is that the answer hovers somewhere around the line that gets crossed when the manipulation is done with the intent to deceive the viewer, such as when two separate photos of John Kerry and Jane Fonda were put together for political purposes in a presidential election campaign to make it look like they appeared together at an anti-war rally.
Some people say that I go too far in the digital enhancement of my astrophotos, and that the colors in some of my images are over-exaggerated and garish. And that opinion is OK with me. However, it is my job as an artist to present my interpretation of reality, and it is their job as viewers to accept it and get something out of it, or not, and reject it.
As a journalist in my sports photography, my job and responsibility are to faithfully and truthfully interpret and represent reality in an image as well as I can understand it.
Do The Tools Make A Difference?We start out with nature. We can only observe it intimately with our own senses. Some might argue that a perfect experience can only be a first person experience. But if we find something interesting or beautiful, we may want to share something of that experience with others.
If others are not there with us to view the original scene personally, we can only share our own interpretation of the original experience. And we can only share this experience through some other media than reality. It may be verbal, through an oral story that tells of what we experienced, or it may be written down in words. It may be through some technology such as a simple drawing with pencil and paper, or a more complex technology such as film, CCD imaging or video.
The tool or technology does not really matter. Do you really care whether Hemingway wrote with a pen and paper or a typewriter? What matters is what the artist does with the tool or technology. Is he true to the subject and reality as he sees it?
Is it the tool, or the user of the tool, that the viewer trusts? The viewer must trust the creator of the work. The artist’s credibility is the only commodity of value that he has to exchange with the viewer for their trust.
The Bottom LineIf an artist painted an entire picture from a photograph, would this be unethical? Only if he tried to misrepresent what it was and how he did it. If the creator was honest about exactly what was done, then the viewer could make his own judgment.
Personally I would not place as much value on a painting of a photographic scene, because you had to have the photo first, and getting the photo was the hard part. I would also not put much value on an photo where details were added that were not in the original image.
Of course, you could argue, completely legitimately, that the real beauty is out there in nature, in reality, and that any recording, or representation of that beauty in a photograph or painting is only a pale imitation of the real thing. This is undoubtedly true, to a very large degree. It is also true that a photograph or painting by a skilled artist can capture some of the spirit of beauty of the scene, and that artifact can transmit some of that nature to others.
Final ThoughtsBecause of the ease in manipulating digital images with Photoshop, some people are questioning whether images are « real » or « art », and wondering if they can believe anything they see anymore. But people have been faking photos since the invention of photography – this is nothing new.
People have also been making things up since the invention of language. It’s called fiction! And lots of people get a lot of enjoyment out of it. As long as the purpose of the « art » is not to intentionally mislead or misrepresent, and the artist is clear about his methods and intentions, no one gets fooled. Of course, there are some art forms, such as magic, where the intention is specifically to deceive, and the viewer willingly goes along with it.
It only becomes a problem, and a question of ethics, when the artist or photographer lies about his motivations, methods, and conclusions, and presents images with the purpose to intentionally deceive.
Through my astrophotograhy I can share with others the wonders and beauty of the universe that are sometimes invisible to the human eye. Digital enhancement can add to these aesthetic experiences.
What is important is our motivation. Why are we doing these things? Are we doing them to deceive people? No, most of us are not. We are doing it to make the subject more visually interesting. We are simply trying to make it a better picture. Just as a writer enhances his factual stories with metaphor and adjectives, photographers can enhance their images with digital techniques such as contrast and color enhancement.
Writers massage the language of words; photographers massage the language of light.
The Daily Mail
Here’s the proof that photo fakery is nothing new.These days magazine ‘artists’ can indulge every whim of the vainest covergirls, but pictures involving celebrities have been modified for many a long year.Take this 150-year-old portrait of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, in which he looks every bit the all-American hero. All is not as it appears – as although it is undoubtedly the 16th Commander in Chief’s face staring at the camera, the body in fact belongs to a prominent southern politician.It has led to claims the 1860 portrait, stitched together from two pictures as ‘no sufficiently heroic portrait of Lincoln had yet been taken’, could be the first ever Photoshopped image. And a study of interesting images from down the years show how the art of photograph trickery has developed over time. Digital forensics expert Dr Hany Farid said: ‘Although we may have the impression that photographic tampering is something relatively new – a product of the digital age – the reality is that history is riddled with photographic fakes.’Farid, from Dartmouth College, said the air-brushing of images by brutal dictators took place as a matter of course.A touch too much! As fashion firms take picture retouching… Look Mom, I’m flying! Eerie photographs show baby floating… The rise of the spirit shadows: Photographer’s haunting…He said Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Fidel Castro all indulged in a spot of pre-PC Photoshopping to eradicate enemies from pictures.He added: ‘Although there are many historical examples of photographic fakes, time-consuming and cumbersome darkroom techniques were required to create them.’And so it wasn’t unreasonable for most people to believe that they could put their trust in photographs.’Farid has published a series of pre-digital age doctored photographs on his website.
One appears to be of General Ulysses S Grant in front of his troops at City Point, Virginia, during the Civil War.
But, as he says researchers at the Library of Congress revealed, it is actually three different photographs merged together.
The head is taken from a portrait of Grant, the horse and body are those of Major General Alexander M McCook and the background is of Confederate prisoners captured at the battle of Fisher’s Hill, VA.
In a third picture, by famed photographer Mathew Brady, General Sherman is seen posing with his Generals, including Francis P Blairr – who was in fact later added to the image.
Though photo manipulation has become more common in the age of digital cameras and image editing software, it actually dates back almost as far as the invention of photography. Gathered below is an overview of some of the more notable instances of photo manipulation in history. For recent years, an exhaustive inventory of every photo manipulation would be nearly impossible, so we focus here on the instances that have been most controversial or notorious, or ones that raise the most interesting ethical questions.
We’ll continue to update this gallery as more incidents come to our attention, so if you come across any notable ones you think we should include, feel free to send us an e-mail at
The August 2007 cover of the scientific publication Nature featured three autonomous aircraft taking atmospheric measurements. The top and bottom aircrafts, however, were cloned copies of each other. After a keen-eyed reader discovered this photo alteration, the Editors printed the following clarification: “The cover caption should have made it clear that this was a montage. Apologies.”
The Asbury Park Press published a doctored photo of New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine as part of a story critical of Corzine’s financial restructuring plans. In a letter to the Press, Corzine’s chief of staff, wrote, in part, “Images that are nothing more than editorial cartoons morphed into photographs are fine — for the editorial page. But placement of such images on the front page of the Sunday edition demonstrates a disregard for objective reporting.” The Press’s executive editor said that the photo did not blur the line between news reporting and editorial commentary. “That wasn’t what we were trying to do,” he said. “We were just trying to frame the story for readers. We were doing it in a way that was a little edgy, and in a way that would grab your attention.”
The New York Daily News ran on its front page a photo of the Boston Marathon bombing which appeared to have been doctored to be less disturbing. The original photo, taken by John Tlumacki for the Boston Globe, shows a significant amount of blood on the leg of an injured person lying on the ground in the upper left of the frame. In the version published by the Daily News, however, no wound is visible. When questioned about the discrepancy, a spokesperson for the paper said that “The Daily News does not comment on its editorial decision-making.”
In the second fake Time magazine cover incident of the year, Philippines newspaper The Daily Inquirer was embarrassed by the erroneous publication of a photo found on the internet indicating that Philippine president Benigno Aquino III had been featured on a Time cover. In fact, he had been among the people profiled in the “100 Most Influential People in the World” cover story, but his face had not graced the cover. According to a spokesperson for the paper, “standard newsroom protocols to vet online images” were unfortunately skipped in this instance.