Friday, March 09, 2007
Adobe is about to add authentication tools to Photoshop. These will detect image manipulations. Reuters is working with both Adobe and Canon on this technology; last year a Reuters photograph taken during the war in Lebanon turned out to be doctored. This is important, but it's hard to know where to draw the line. There was the systematic airbrushing conducted by Stalin's goons - see this amazing site - but, at the other end of the scale, there are the routine enhancements applied by any picture desks. I would guess no image in contemporary journalism is entirely untouched. Fashion shoots are so heavily manipulated they should more accurately be regarded as paintings of the models. And, anyway, what is 'untouched'? A camera 'touches' reality and the resulting picture is a highly artificial construct which we call 'real'. This conception of the 'real' is a convention, but, since it is more or less universal, it must be respected - hence Adobe's attempts to police its own technology. But the truth is that Photoshop's unprecedented power has destroyed our faith in the image's claim to authenticity. This means the news photographer must become more like the reporter. We must trust him to do the right thing because we know the technology won't.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 7:41 am