Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Cheating Photographers Unlimited

Remember round about a decade or more ago when sports enhancing drugs first hit the scene? It suddenly became obvious a few bad apples were juicing up a storm, so sport by ever loving sport began to proclaim, "We're watching you. Stop it- stop it right now. We mean it!" And as if overnight, the world of professional sports, each and every one, was suddenly and miraculously wiped cleaned of this aberration once and for all. Just like White cops no longer beat and shoot unarmed Black civilians after the fist coupla videos came out depicting just that quite some years ago. Just a coupla bad apples here and there- every orchard has its share...

Obviously, police still have itchy trigger fingers, athletes continue to juice in pro and amateur sports alike, and even if Lance has been stripped of his titles- how far down the ladder would one have to go in each of his races before one finally gets to a clean rider? And now they're switching from clandestine doping to concealed motors.

Point is, it's never about "a few rotten apples," they're just the few that get caught, a symptom of a much wider "culture" that is now endemic in the world of professional photojournalism. Pellegrin, Datta, McCurry... these are but three of the names we are now familiar with- prime examples of a crisis brought to us via photography's ease and sophistication of technology, ferocity of competition, and the failure to adequately address the ethical considerations that have evolved. But are we seriously to think those three the only ones?

When I first saw the Datta photo, I too thought it first a poster, reflection- apparition? I really didn't know what to think- so I quickly reminded myself that I'm not exactly the digital wunderkind, and chalked it up to some kind of digital phenomena arising from: problematic WB/exposure, with competing and/or extreme light sources, blah, blah, blah... Obviously, this guy was a professional, and a star at that, and one whose work had been repeatedly vetted and published by respected agencies, editors and publishers who were up on all these things et al. So who am I?

But viewers do have our role to play. Where was the initial crescendo of voices from all those who now claim certainty that it was Photoshopped (and Photoshopped badly)? Why didn't I spot this major ethical lapse upon first viewing? I certainly can't blame digital technology on that one!

This is our current state where every player in the chain must step up their game. There must be rules at the top, that come into play methodically and universally, rules with teeth that both prevent, and discourage, not just to protect the 'virtues' of photography and/or photojournalism- but also to insure the safety and dignity of those it depicts. Ideally, violations should be caught and corrected from on high, but as with politicians of every stripe and color, it's left to those at the bottom to oversee and regulate their power and relevancy.


  1. Your a funny guy Stan. The media clean itself up? That's a laugh. With the likes of Murdoch running the show(s) I would have better luck winning the lottery. People are more interested in how big Kim Kardashian's ass is than if the news they get is accurate. The only test for accuracy now is whether it fits into the viewers or readers preconceived world view. If it fits then it must be accurate.

  2. Well, I wasn't aiming quite that high; merely talking still photography in the print/electronic media- that alone is quixotic enough.