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Thread started 01 Jun 2016 (Wednesday) 21:24
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Steve McCurry's "Ethical Lapse"

 
Tedder
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Jun 01, 2016 21:24 |  #1

The following article is kind of interesting:


"'Ethical lapse': Photoshop scandal catches up with iconic photojournalist Steve McCurry" (external link)

The world-renowned Magnum photographer has renounced the responsibilities of a photojournalist after heavily editing several of his images. But his use of Photoshop has breached photojournalism's ethics, say colleagues.


...American photography blog PetaPixel broke the story earlier this month after Italian photographer Paolo Viglione posted a botched image from McCurry's trip to Cuba he discovered on the Magnum photographer's blog. The photo in question showed remnants of a traffic sign sticking out of a passerby's leg.


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Jun 01, 2016 22:12 |  #2

The clone-stamp blunder referred to above, as well as a couple of other altered McCurry images, can be seen in the following PetaPixel article:


"Botched Steve McCurry Print Leads to Photoshop Scandal" (external link)


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Post edited over 3 years ago by mannetti21. (3 edits in all)
     
Jun 01, 2016 23:01 |  #3

I can understand people making a big deal of this, primarily because it's what seemingly all of society tends to do in this era. Maybe the so-called ethical code of photojournalism need to be revised, or maybe the so-called photojournalists need to assign themselves a new title. My personal opinion is that 10 different people will tell a different story about the same event based on their own interpretation. They will use different words, choose to emphasize different parts of the story, or exclude portions all together...the same occurs in digital imaging. I venture to say it is occurring far more frequently than we know or want to believe.

Knowing how easily an image can be manipulated, and the type of financial gains possible with the "perfect" photo, I will never completely believe a photographer/photojour​nalist that claims to not alter any of their images.


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Jun 02, 2016 07:14 |  #4

The saddest irony of photojournalist "ethics" is that so many seem to accept that it is perfectly fine for an editor sitting at a desk, potentially on the other side of the world, who wasn't on location to make decisions what what is "okay" to edit in an image.

We also accept that writers will edit their articles. They'll change things, they'll update and reword, they'll even scrap things entirely and start over again if they see fit, and they are expected to provide a clear and concise account of what happened... But if you even think about editing a photo? Oh no, that's terrible and you're a terrible person.


The part that gets me the most is this mythical idea that an unedited photo is somehow automatically honest and truthful in nature. Ignoring the fact that a lie with a camera is just as easily done with what you claim about the photo. "This photo of police officers beating someone is representative of what had been happening all over the city!... Ignoring the fact that this was the only person they used clubs on, and they were doing so because the suspect continued to attack with makeshift weapons and refused to be subdued..."


Personally I hold photojournalists to the same level as I do any other journalist: Edit your work carefully to clearly tell what you feel to be an honest reproduction of what you witnessed and felt while you were there. This of course does not mean I expect them to make things up completely, or to do heavy photoshopping and create something that they couldn't possibly have captured in real life. But removing a bright bag or shoe from the background that is distracting in the image, or even potentially making it less clear what is going on with the main subject, heavily blurring things as if shot with a narrower depth of field, and other things like that are not things we should be looking to lynch photographers over.


Much of the fuss over 'ethics' comes off as a complete red herring. And things like agencies demanding only 'raw' camera files is a smoke screen at best, and pretending they're actually doing something useful. (Because there is absolutely no way to embed photoshopped data back in a .cr2 file... couldn't possibly be done. No way someone might look at the data structures and reverse engineer a way to write edited data that reads like an original....)


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Jun 02, 2016 10:49 |  #5

breached photojournalism's ethics

I would suggest that the lack of ethics in photojournalism pales in contrast to the overall lack of ethics in mankind in general.


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Jun 02, 2016 11:25 |  #6

McCurry always was an artist in my eyes, i was in high school when I received that Nat Geo with the Afghan girl on the cover, and even though I had little interest yet in Photography, i remember staring into that girls eyes many times.

I understand the concern for actual photojournalist integrity. I'm not sure how much those concerns apply in these examples.


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Jun 02, 2016 12:50 |  #7

CyberDyneSystems wrote in post #18026869 (external link)
McCurry always was an artist in my eyes, i was in high school when I received that Nat Geo with the Afghan girl on the cover, and even though I had little interest yet in Photography, i remember staring into that girls eyes many times.

I understand the concern for actual photojournalist integrity. I'm not sure how much those concerns apply in these examples.

Many teachers of journalism would share Jake's uncertainty. Situations and purposes allow for various levels of manipulation.

  • In a news story a telephone pole seems to be growing from the top of Mayor Sam's head in all useful shots. It must, alas, remain because the photo is supposedly recording news.
  • In a quick portrait for a feature on Mayor Sam's button collection there's a fly on his nose. The fly can go because it's irrelevant.
  • A poor refugee boy's face is covered with flies. They must stay but the editor may reject the pic if the story is about a great hospital.
  • A skilled shooter poses a sleazy candidate in a way that makes him look even worse than he does in real life. The shot may run but in submitting it the posing the shooter stepped over the line.
  • The same skilled shooter happens to catch the same candidate looking as if he were a serial killer of kittens. Since the shot is unposed it may ethically run but an editor may decided it is too slanted and powerful.
  • Ms. Teenage Maple City suffers an extreme wardrobe malfunction. No ethical outlet would run it because of her age but others would pay big money.

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Jun 02, 2016 19:29 |  #8

The expression in the media is..."if it bleeds, it leads"!
We need more of that type of documentary imagery, if only to put it in the public's face.
Show those slain children from Chicago/Baltimore/etc.​..maybe then something would be done...maybe.


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Jun 03, 2016 17:12 |  #9

As I see it, anyone who claims to be a photojournalist and presents a given image as photojournalistic shouldn't be clone-stamping, using content-aware fill, or applying the plastic-wrap filter. In this case, if I understand correctly, McCurry posted the image on his personal blog, and he supposedly did so as a "visual storyteller," not as a photojournalist. Maybe he's redefining himself as a method of diverting attention to an "ethical lapse." Or maybe not.

Either way, I see that some folks in the photo world are enjoying playing "gotcha" with this one.


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Jun 03, 2016 18:05 |  #10
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Tedder wrote in post #18028200 (external link)
[..]
Either way, I see that some folks in the photo world are enjoying playing "gotcha" with this one.

The oft envy-driven elation of the churls when the ones at the top quiver or even fall.

On the other hand, the ones at the top have a greater responsibility to maintain integrity, not only theirs but that of the profession as well. Documentary, in principle, means 'the truth: warts and all'. One can't be cloning things out, however small or irrelevant they might seem, because 'they're distracting', or because 'their removal enhances the composition' or what have you. It lowers the credibility of journalism as a whole when you one does that and leads to cynicism on the part of the audience: thinking that all journalists are the same, or that the news are all manipulated, or that nothing at all can be believed.


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Jun 04, 2016 11:57 |  #11

I think part of the issue here is defining what Steve McCurry is.
he has done a lot of photojournalism work over his career, and is being pigeonholed as a photojournalist.
as a photojournalist, he should not be adding, removing or moving things around in images - nothing over the basic crop/colour/dodge and burn, stuff that could easily be done in the darkroom.

however, if i he is not working for a newspaper, or acting as a photojournalist, then what does it really matter if he moves a light pole a little ?

I am a Photojournalist - in my day job, i follow the rules laid out for me - no adding, removing or shifting things.
In my personal work, i see no issue in removing a fly or mole in a portrait, or a leaf in a landscape, or moving things on the rare occasion i take some "street" photos.


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Jun 04, 2016 15:08 as a reply to  @ Echo63's post |  #12

Yes, you’re right, the issue centers on the public perception of who McCurry is as a photographer. To be sure, McCurry has the right to venture into any aspect of photography. So in one sense, there’s nothing truly wrong with his highly edited endeavors.

However, much of McCurry’s following public still perceive him as a photojournalist-documentarian, and understandably so.

This in turn raises the question at what point is McCurry obligated to announce a shift, should any obligation exists in the first place.

And did McCurry purposely exploit the public’s longstanding perception to create manipulated images while knowing that most of his viewers continued to define them as reportage. If this is the case, and it may not be, then it’s McCurry’s deliberately deceptive intentions that are more disconcerting than the photos themselves.

We can cynically write off “journalistic integrity” and photographic truth, and after all, I’m of the belief that photos, without accompanying explanatory text, do NOT tell a story. I also realize that even if not markedly manipulated, a photo’s lack of context can lead to mass misinterpretation and serve as an effective propaganda mechanism.

Still, this does not absolve our responsibility to ensure that deception is minimized in regards to the press, especially given manipulative post processing’s increasing ease and sophistication.

And while issues of contrast or saturation may kick up reasonable debate, removing a human or two from the center of a photo, as McCurry did, obviously and absolutely violates journalistic rules. There’s nothing ambiguous about that.

Again, if McCurry wants to be a ‘visual illustrator,’ that’s his prerogative. But while the “Afghan girl” photo will always remain remarkable, how would McCurry’s most ardent supporters feel if they discovered that the subject’s eyes had been substituted in.


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Jun 05, 2016 06:29 |  #13

Anyone have a picture of a dead horse?


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Jun 05, 2016 10:36 |  #14

Here's my take. Suppose you take a picture for a news agency, and a tree branch is sticking out of the subjects head or leg, unless it affects what the picture is saying, it's fine. It doesn't change the focus of the picture. Take a picture or Billary Trumpton at the gun club smiling after getting 3 bullseyes' in a row, and PhotoShop the gun out of the picture or crop it out, it removes the reason for the smile, and is unethical. In the first instance the photographer would be protecting his reputation by ensuring his image doesn't look odd or badly composed, in the second, the photographer would be completely removing the (t)reason for the image.


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Jun 05, 2016 12:09 |  #15

Colin Glover wrote in post #18029827 (external link)
Here's my take. Suppose you take a picture for a news agency, and a tree branch is sticking out of the subjects head or leg, unless it affects what the picture is saying, it's fine. It doesn't change the focus of the picture. Take a picture or Billary Trumpton at the gun club smiling after getting 3 bullseyes' in a row, and PhotoShop the gun out of the picture or crop it out, it removes the reason for the smile, and is unethical. In the first instance the photographer would be protecting his reputation by ensuring his image doesn't look odd or badly composed, in the second, the photographer would be completely removing the (t)reason for the image.

Both would get you fired from the news agency.


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Steve McCurry's "Ethical Lapse"
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