What Is Real?

April 3, 2003

As someone who’s job it is to occasionally edit a photograph, I was really interested in the story of L.A. Times Photog, Brian Walski . As the editor’s note points out, there were two photos used to create a composite image that was used in a story.

To be honest, anyone who is decent with Photoshop can do this. It’s not that hard . But it’s a fatal sin to do this and represent it as fact, as this photojournalist did. It would be like taking the story of three people, and combining them into a composite represented as one person. While the stories might be true, the presentation distorts the reality of the three people.

When I edit a photo, it’s usually to remove an arm from behind someone in a photograph, removing telephone lines, or ladders from trucks. There is a nice book about Chattanooga coming out, and one of my edited photos will be on one of the first pages. A photographer had a great photo of a building at dusk but there were way too many telephone lines ruining the shot. I went through and removed the lines as they intersected with the clouds and buildings I even removed ladders from a telephone truck as it went by. I even had that truck completely out of the shot, but it was determined better if it was in.

Technology is great. I give a short prayer to the creators of Adobe Photoshop every night. But it’s something like this, that makes people wearier of journalists. If they can fake a shot like that without most people knowing, what else can they fake?