Here we have an image of Brad Pitt, caught vacationing with Angelina Jolie while Brad was still married to Jennifer. But wait! That picture of Pitt was taken in Anguilla in 2005, while the picture of Jolie was taking in Virginia in 2004. They weren’t “caught” together. They were “pasted” together.
Of course, this is a tabloid. We take it for granted that tabloids take liberty with the truth. Is it wrong? Yes. Is it illegal? Maybe. But for the most part, we leave it to the stars to take court action before anything is done about it.
Here’s another example. Do we believe this is a real picture? Probably not (though I suppose some people do). It’s another example of a publication where we don’t have an expectation of truth. More Tabloids
But what about this magazine? Here we have a picture of Texas governor Ann Richards. Well—sort of. We actually have Ann Richards’ head on a biker’s body. Of course, Ann Richards agreed to this, and it’s all done in fun. No harm done. Popular Magazines
Okay, so now it gets a bit more questionable. We all know Oprah has a weight issue, and we watch it closely. She looks pretty darned great here. Congratulations, Oprah. But, oh wait. That’s not Oprah. That’s Oprah’s head on Ann Margaret’s body. Hmmm . . . but, then, it’s TV Guide. And TV Guide exists to sell programming. And they don’t actually say it’s a real photo. . . . . . where do we draw the line? TV Guide
National Geographic . . . Well, maybe this is where we draw the line. What do we expect from National Geographic? We expect truthful reporting. We expect to learn about the world around us—through pictures. So when National Geographic moved these pyramids closer together for aesthetic purposes (to work on a vertical cover) there was, understandably, an outcry. Nowhere in the world can we actually see this view.
South Pole And here’s an interesting one. A polar bear at the South Pole. Anyone see a problem? Well—polar bears don’t live at the South Pole. They only live at the North Pole. Or in zoos, where this one lived, posing perfectly to be superimposed over this shot of Antarctica.
So, is it all right to manipulate photographs? It seems that it comes down, in part, to expectations for truthfulness.
Nature photographers have been debating this question for decades. Early photographers argued that it was unfair to even move a blade of grass to create a better picture. Nature photographers were meant to document nature as it occurred in real life . Later, arguments arose about correcting contrast or lighting in the darkroom. The basic belief was that a good nature photographer works hard to find that perfect picture—and doesn’t manipulate it afterward.
So, in the instance of our polar bear picture, it was all done in fun. Our judgment depends, to some extent, on the venue in which the picture is displayed, and the disclosure given by the publisher. When it comes down to true nature photography, we’re talking about the ethics of the profession.
Wildlife Photography Take this photo of zebras, for example, taken for a book entitled, Migrations . Let’s look at it close-up, on the next slide, as it appeared in the book.
Wow! That’s a lot of zebras migrating!
Ethics Okay—so it wasn’t just close-up. It was manipulated. A close look will reveal zebras that have been cloned to make the herd look larger. The problem is, it was manipulated to tell a lie. This photo was offered as proof that zebras migrate in large herds. So this becomes an ethical problem. Why? Because nature photographers have an ethical code that says they do not manipulate photos, and because the manipulation was not disclosed in the publication.
Manipulating Emotions During the OJ Simpson murder trial, Newsweek and Time chose to run the same photo as a cover shot. But Newsweek used the photo in its original form, while Time darkened OJ’s skin color for effect. Remember, the trial is still in process. How will these photos influence public opinion? Are there value judgments tied up in the editing of this photo?
AP USA Today Manipulating Public Opinion Here is a similar situation, where USA Today brightened Condoleezza Rice’s eyes. They claim to have only “corrected” the lighting. What is the overall effect? How might public opinion have been influenced? These examples help us see how visual images can affect us, and highlight the importance of teaching visual literacy skills.
Making us look good The quest for beauty has been at the root of much of the photo manipulation done in the media. And it raises grave concerns about the expectations we are creating for what it means to have a healthy, beautiful body. Take a look at the four short videos below to see the extent to which we meddle with our images of beauty.
Steganography I want to end up with one last idea concerning digital images. Steganography is “The art and science of hiding information by embedding messages within other, seemingly harmless messages.” “Steganography (literally meaning covered writing ) dates back to ancient Greece, where common practices consisted of etching messages in wooden tablets and covering them with wax, and tattooing a shaved messenger's head, letting his hair grow back, then shaving it again when he arrived at his contact point.” You are probably familiar with this idea—perhaps thinking of it as “secret code.” Quotes from: ( http:// www.webopedia.com/TERM/S/steganography.html )
Pershing sails from NY June 1.
Apparently neutral’s protest is thoroughly discounted and ignored. Isman hard hit. Blockade issue affects pretext for embargo on byproducts, ejecting suets and vegetable oils. In WWI, it was common practice to hide important messages within seemingly innocuous text. Here is one example: Steganography By reading only the second letter of each word, we discover this embedded message: The problem with hiding words in text, though, is that there are a limited number of letters to work with.
Steganography Pictures, however, are a different story. Pictures contain very dense data. A square inch of an image can have anywhere from 72 to 1200 unique data points (eg. 72 dpi). Imagine a photo, then, where in each square inch, several pixels are dedicated to a different message. Not enough pixels to distort the image we are viewing—just enough to hide a different message. For example, the two images above look identical.
Steganography But they are not identical. Hidden within the pixels of the second image is this picture of a cat. It requires special software to decode the hidden picture, but the software is easily available online as a free download. So much becomes possible when we switch from an analog image to a digital image—with all those pixels just waiting to be manipulated.