[6Jan20, [2, p.39]] Technological advances make manipulation ever easier and (where desired) more subtle, but it is noted that this is not new, citing Hippolyte Bayard's 1840 image (fig. A1), an early pseudo- posthumous selfie (possibly the earliest) created to publicise the fact that Bayard's invention of a direct positive process had not been recognised, the plaudits going to Fox Talbot and Daguerre.
Box B The Cottingley Fairies, 1917
Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths,
We then move on to the Victorians' (et seq.) obsession with contacting the dead, perhaps occasioned by the number of war dead, which led to the popularity of seances and fake photographs of spiritual entities. The quaint case of the The Cottingley Fairies (fig. B1) faked in 1917 by two teenagers also gets a mention. Perhaps the doctoring of historic photographs in Stalinist Russian should also be considered (David King's The Commissar Vanishes (2014) is a good starting point).
Next Oscar Rejlander's bizarre aesthetic blind alley of early constructs, combining the negatives from multiple staged photographs to create complex composite images in imitation of oil paintings of classic and mythical scenes. These must be seen at large scale to be appreciated (fig. C1).
Photoshop an image. See the exercise page for the Tony Blair burning oilfield montage by Peter Kennard and Cat Phillipps.
Box E Solo Violinist, St Mary’s School, Edinburgh,
1998, Wendy McMurdo
[7Jan] But, the cmat continues, manipulation is not always for the purpose of deception, 'some artists have used it to illuminate a subject or add a different point of view [2, p.43]. Step forward my tutor for C&N, Wendy McMurdo and fig. E1.
McMurdo photographed children playing musical instruments and video games, then removed the devices digitally, leaving their looks of absolute concentration.
[7Jan20, [2, p.44]] We are directed to a section of Liz Wells' Photography: A Critical Introduction [22, pp.73-5], The real and the digital, with the question, 'Does digital technology change how we see photography as truth? Consider both
sides of the argument.
Wells (or rather Derrick Price who wrote Chapter 2) notes that image manipulation is nothing new, and we have already mentioned the Stalin era and fig. F1, c.1930, is an example with the removal of Nikolai Yezhov, chief of the Soviet secret police (i). But the capability of modern digital technology is enabling entirely new levels of artifice. [In the week this is written, the BBC has reported 'Facebook has announced it will remove videos modified by artificial intelligence, known as deepfakes, from its platform (ii).] As Campany, reported regarding 'late photography, videos are the medium through which news is mostly consumed and most news 'photographs' are now stills extracted from videos.
Price seems to suggest that while it has long been generally acknowledged that photographs are malleable, there was a general consensus ('through the structure of discursive, social and professional practices which constituted photography') to believe photographs but that this is now breaking down.
To address the question specifically, it is the case that the public now has less trust in photographs as representing truth or reality, but on an individual basis, this depends on the context: for example, it is likely that a regular Guardian reader would tend to accept photographs accompanying Guardian articles as accurate representations of events, but that same person would be more mistrustful of photographs in a newspaper that they did not respect.
Photographs have always been subject to manipulation for a variety of reasons ranging from the purely technical (e.g. extracting the greatest detail from an image) to the artistic (e.g. Rejlander's creations) to the humorous and ultimately to the propagandist. As technology has become more sophisticated, and especially over the last decade, the potential for manipulation has grown to the current deepfake trend. As manipulation has waxed, public faith in the medium's accuracy or truth has waned.
The cmat[2, p.44] summarises Part 1 (including the Preamble) and I will quote that at length,
each photograph is a ‘point of view’
that depends on the time it was taken, the person who took it (no matter how objective
they try to be) and the things outside the frame, unknown to the viewer, which may
add or take away from what’s revealed in the frame. In this sense every photograph,
regardless of its visual accuracy, is a manipulation of reality. A photograph cannot tell
the whole story and is therefore part of a wider narrative. This is an important point
that is often overlooked in the dissemination of news and facts in media and popular
culture. Although photography has played an important role in providing information,
for example in photojournalism and historical archives, we must take its context into
consideration in order to fully understand the whole story.
C&N [2, p.44]
It asks the student to sum up how their view of docphot has changed and '(w)hat are the differences between documentary, reportage, photojournalism and art photography'?
I have been adding short summaries to each of the pages on this site covering Part 1 and here they are:
Project 1 - Eyewitnesses - Documentary photography is not and never has been objective, as it is always mediated by and filtered through a variety of processes as images make their way from photographer through to audience. Those processes have changed technologically, politically and sociologically over time.
Project 2 - Photojournalism - Docphot has lost its role, replaced by the moving image and 24H rolling news. Professional critics tend to disapprove of the genre.
Project 3 - Reportage - Reportage, an image or series relating a story, has changed gradually over the last century as technology improvements (speed, then portability and discreteness, then colour) have allowed. Some may criticize the lack of discretion and the paucity of kindness or compassion in the genre as currently practiced.
The undoubted impact of recent digital technology and social media is not really covered. Several decades ago, the tendency for crowds to gather at the site of an accident was described by a government minister at the time [Michael Heseltine] using the phrase I have never forgotten, 'unfortunate ghouls'. Nowadays, the popular response to any event of significance is to video it with a mobile 'phone. The minister's phrase is now ubiquitous.
Project 4 - The gallery wall – documentary as art - Attitudes of photographers to the documentary and of its various audiences to photography as an art form changed fundamentally from the 1960s , led by U.S. artists (such as Arbus, Friedlander and Winogrand) and curators (notably Szarkowski). Photographers now tend to actively interpret rather than merely depict or report their subject. Szarkowski's windows and mirrors epithet is tellingly and warmly apposite.
Project 5 - The manipulated image - Photographs have always been subject to manipulation for a variety of reasons ranging from the purely technical (e.g. extracting the greatest detail from an image) to the artistic (e.g. Rejlander's creations) to the humorous and ultimately to the propagandist. As technology has become more sophisticated, and especially over the last decade, the potential for manipulation has grown to the current deepfake trend. As manipulation has waxed, public faith in the medium's accuracy or truth has waned.