Editing photographs to get a desired image is pretty cool with the various technologies available nowadays. Instagram with its plethora of filters can reveal to you that your bad side isn’t actually that bad if you apply the Valencia filter, tweak the saturation, readjust the shadows to -7, add a vignette, maximize the highlights to +100, and lower the warmth by 13. I failed to realize that editing photos in a similar manner was being performed way before the App Store became a thing. Paschalidis and Borges-Rey both note that though photo-altering has been around since the darkroom days, the innovative technologies of today and the future actually pose a huge threat to the very “authenticity” that photographs aim to capture.
We want to assume that a photograph tells more of the truth than a painting does because a camera will give us an objective and unbiased depiction of whatever we want to look at. The crisis of photojournalism in the 1980s, as described by Paschalidis in his “Mini Cameras and Maxi Minds”, was when it became evident that photographs can be altered in a concealed way to change that truth that we are confident to find in a photograph rather than a painting. At the dawn of the personal computer era, photographs were beginning to be converted to electronic data files that anyone with a decent computer could take a shot at manipulating. Paschalidis quotes Fred Ritchin:
“The newly created potential for a computer-assisted seamless manipulation of photographs … would undermine photography’s long-established perception as a generally trustworthy unbiased transcriber of reality and shake public trust in the traditionally prized accuracy and veracity of journalistic and documentary photographs.”
Paschalidis also notes that many other commentators talked about fearing how future photo-altering technologies will change the entire experience of capturing photos.
In a section of “News Images on Instagram”, Borges-Rey discusses that shoot-and-share technologies like Instagram change the entire photographic experience because of the multitude of editing capabilities it offers. When capturing an image, the photo-taking apparatus is what wields the power in the situation. Technologies like Instagram introduce ways that can “give power back” to the photographer to alter the shot into what they desire – whether what they desire is indeed a depiction of the truth or their own interpretation, we’ll probably never know. Instagram gives users the opportunity to play around with lighting and color and sharpness and other small tweaking capabilities that can evoke a completely new feeling from the audience. Advanced photo-editing technologies that are held in a higher regard like Photoshop allows users to go way beyond any subtle filters Instagram offers. Independent images, after being run through numerous edits, can be merged into one single entity that now presents a completely fabricated scene that to an average person’s eye looks very realistic and plausible.
I agree with Borges-Rey and Paschalidis on that photo-altering, whether it be a subtle Insta filter or a drastic part-reorganization by Photoshop, threatens the authenticity of the subject matter of a photograph. In an ideal world, photographers should disclose any changes made to the original piece being viewed, but this isn’t an ideal world and we all like to add filters to our selfies without having to explain why. As an informed audience, we should just be more cognizant of the existing various photo-editing tools out there and their powers if we want to be able to find the truth out for ourselves.
Borges-Rey, E. (2015). News Images on Instagram. Digital Journalism,3(4), 571-593. doi:10.1080/21670811.2015.1034526
Paschalidis, G. (2015). Mini Cameras and Maxi Minds. Digital Journalism,3(4), 634-652. doi:10.1080/21670811.2015.1034529