Do you trust photographs from war zones?

    by Mark Glaser
    August 8, 2006

    Lately, there has been a lot of talk in the blogosphere about a Reuters photographer who used Photoshop to double the amount of smoke in a photo of Beirut. The photo was scrutinized by conservative bloggers, starting with Little Green Footballs, and eventually Reuters admitted to the fakery and fired the freelance photographer, Adnan Hajj. The British press has been defending its photos against attack from conservative blog EU Referendum as well. It’s very easy for photographers to add Photoshop touches to make a shot more dramatic or to stage photos by asking people to pose in them. However, most media organizations have strict rules against these types of manipulation. As a news watcher and reader, what do you think about the professional photos you have seen from war zones such as Lebanon, Israel and Iraq? Do you trust them or have questions? Do you feel like the photographer has a political bias? Would you rather see photos taken by amateurs at the scene? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and I’ll run the best ones in the next Your Take Roundup.

    Tagged: blogosphere fraud photography
    • Geoff Neilson

      TIME and Newsweek of July 31, 2006 available in South Africa, printed similar photos of a war scene in Beirut–probably taken only seconds or minutes apart– but with quite different captions. I get the impression that one or both magazines invented their captions. Having worked for almost 2 decades for the largest magazine publishers in the southern hemisphere, I know this is not an isolated case.

      Cape Town

    • Geoff,
      Can you expound on what the photos were and what the captions said — and why you believe they are false? Also please explain why you don’t think this is an isolated case and why there are so many errors in photos in such high-profile magazines.

    • I think skepticism is good but the more we know about the backgrounds of journalists the better. The more openness in both government and journalism and transparency in both the more trustworthy they will be viewed as by the public.

    • Viewing photographs should be no different than how we see other media- we should be using media literacy and critical viewing questions such as: who took the photo and for what purpose and what techniques might be used to make us believe it. As someone one said, one of the casualities of war is the truth.

    • Here’s an interesting video about photo fraud. Take a few minutes to watch it.

    • Largely I trust pictures because the economic risk to a photographer and the media outlet that he serves outweighs the temptation to up the ante most of the time.

      Can anyone put a figure on the goodwill that Reuters has lost due the incident?

      There is the larger question of what governments allow an audience to see, a classic example being the road to Basra which got hit by US aircraft during Gulf War 1, yet the media coverage remained remarkably free of charred cadavers.

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