The story broke last week about abuse by British soldiers on Iraqi POW’s (are they POW’s if we have the supposed moral high ground?). Yet subsequent comment seems to suggest that these images may be false. This story follows closely on the heals of the issue concerning the Iraqi kids holding a cardboard sign.
So what’s going on here? Are they real or are they false, the fact that nobody can quite say it somewhat distressing. Of course photos have been doctored for years, think of the Cottingley Fairies hoax of 1917 by two Yorkshire girls, or the photo of the Loch Ness monster, shot in 1934 by a London gynaecologist and more recently John Kerry and Jane Fonda. This is not new(s). But the fact that is so bloody easy to do today (Photoshopping) coupled with a rabid media hungry for the next scoop means the creation and distribution network is that much more prevalent (and of course more eager to publish).
“While photographs may not lie, liars may photograph”. American documentary photographer Lewis Hine circa 1900
The above raises the issue that photographs have always had this aura of falsability, indeed before photography, paintings were considered the documentary medium of the day. And look how painting has diversified since the 1880’s. It moved gradually into impressionism, expressionism, simulacrum and even to an extent distruction of itself. Is photography moving in a similar direction (abeit slowly due to the lack of a successor), it was obvious that the painted image could be very easily manipulated however, we had nothing else and the trust was given over to the reputation of the painter in question.
Can photography (coupled with photographic manipulation tools) be trusted? Maybe as with painting we need to look to the author to garner the truth, or indeed the publication in which it is reproduced. Of course this will lead to the authenticity questioned about genuine images, which is a shame.
Once again I seem to have answered a question with several others…damn you Guardian Newspapers and your ‘let’s look at both sides of the story’ – I blame you.