This photograph had been around the house for a long time, and I unearthed it to take to a family reunion we had over Labour weekend. I admit, it had me fooled. I thought it had been taken in the North African desert.
A lot of alteration of family photos goes on these days, with the most common request being to remove some person who has fallen out of favour. I used to advertise on the Photospace studio website that photos can be digitally restored and retouched, but repeated requests to alter photographs made me uncomfortable. The last straw was somebody asking, “And while you’re on the job, could you straighten her mouth? It’s always bothered me that she had a crooked mouth.”
While these things are usually done in all innocence, they can end up being misleading to later generations who are trying to establish historical information by looking at photographs. A detail such as a mouth being straightened could lead to a mis-identification, for instance. Manipulation of photographs, whether by using computer software or old school methods, is not just an ethical issue for photojournalists and publishers, but for anyone who alters the content of any photograph.
This posting has got a little heavier in tone than I intended, after laughing at myself for being duped by such a low-tech trick. I’ve read so much discussion and seen so many examples of unethical photo manipulation, but this is the first time I’ve directly encountered it, trivial as the example may be.
by james | 28 October, 2008