20 September 2005

Real, or manufactured?

Many photojournalists ‘cross the line’ in order to get a great shot. They exaggerate or romanticise scenes and subjects to create a greater impact for their audience. When they should ‘capture’ the scene and report it as it is, sometimes, they go as far as to ‘create’ it, specifically asking subjects to pose for a picture… or allowing themselves to be manipulated by the subjects, who pose for the camera to justify their means.

If photojournalism is about finding and reporting the truth, then a posed picture – or one that exaggerates a scene or emotion – is a lie.

When we see a photograph on the front page of our morning newspaper, how can we be sure that the photograph is an accurate image of the event or scene being reported? How do we know if it is real, or manufactured? Does photojournalism correspond to the same standards of objectivity that guide news reports? Or does the medium, by its very nature, require artistic influence?

Some authorities say, for news photographs, photographers should abide by strict standards to ensure objectivity: there should be no intentional blurring or unusual composition or framing. Any scene that misleads the news consumer is a violation of photojournalistic ethics.

The New York Times, for example, sets this standard for the integrity of news photos: "Images in our pages that purport to depict reality must be genuine in every way. No people or objects may be added, rearranged, reversed, distorted or removed from a scene… Pictures of news situations must not be posed… And it also means that the journalism we practice daily must be beyond reproach."

This submission in poynter.org tells you more about the guidelines set by The New York Times.

[Citation: backspin]

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