Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Photo Manipulation: Where's the line?

Photo Manipulation is the technique of manipulating a photographic image by altering it in order to create an illusion or deception, or just too simply enhance and correct the image to your standards and/or desires. Photo Manipulation can be done either through analog or digital means, yet digital is the preferred technique because it is fast and results can be seen instantly, with programs such as Adobe Photoshop. Photo Manipulation has been around since the invention of photography and has greatly increased since the invention of digital cameras, because most digital cameras now come with a photo manipulation program that people use on a regular basis. The most commonly known photo to have been manipulated was the mug shot of O.J. Simpson, by Time magazine, which many believed had crossed all ethics towards photo manipulation.

Matt Mahurin, an illustrator for Time magazine manipulated the mug shot of O.J. Simpson and caused an out burst of criticism towards Time magazine. To defend the Time magazine and himself, Mahurin stated “wanted to make it more artful, more compelling”. This statement by Mr. Mahurin shows how the Time magazine’s illustrator would rather have an eye catching front cover image, to sell more magazines, and to communicate a specific thought when someone is to look at the cover. The manipulation of O.J. Simpson’s photo was extremely unethical because it crossed all borders of photo manipulation.

Although photo manipulation may seem very unethical, there are certain photo manipulations techniques that are accepted and allowed, such as brightness and contrast adjustments, colour correction, cropping a frame to fit a layout, retouching of dust and scratches etc... Now the photo manipulation techniques that are considered unethical and are not accepted are adding or removing objects within the frame, changing colours rather than restoring the original colours, flipping a photograph in any way and basically anything that will alter the image to change the reader’s opinion. Although all ethics of photo manipulation have been crossed, the Time magazine had misled their readers by publishing a false image. The exploitation of O.J. Simpsons has been known for being racist and insensitive because of the effect on the magazine readers. In addition to that the magazine had taken a coloured man’s photo and made it darker making him seem more evil, which directly leads to Us vs. Them, where they have given him the image as the bad guy and in his case the murderer of his ex-wife and her lover. The difference between the News Week cover and the Time magazine cover was obvious, for News Week’s magazine had left the mug shot of O.J. Simpson as it was, where the Time magazine had change the photo, in order to sell more copies and alter the publics opinion about Mr. Simpson.

Photo manipulation, which in today’s world is very well known and dealt with on a regular basis, has shown the world just how much a person would digitally manipulate an image, to make a cash profit. Other media cases of photo manipulation include the doctored photo of Lebanon which had additional smoke clouds added to the original and was darkened, News Weeks cover of Martha Stewart had her head placed on someone else’s body and hundreds of others. Race, religion, ethnicity and socioeconomic background, play a strong role in how a person would interpret a image and because most people don’t take the time to read about the images they see they judge by what they see before knowing what is really going on in the image. This was the same with O.J. Simpson’s mug shot on the Time magazine that was darkened; it made society believe that he was a murderer. The Time magazine is not a cruel and racist magazine because it is not the first media magazine to take an image of a black man and make it seem evil. In fact, the interpretations that people in today’s world have range from the misinterpretations of Muslims and Arabs in the news to black people in the media. Altogether “the art” of photo manipulation is acceptable to a certain extend, but this certain extend is different for every person.

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