Recently someone reposted a series of pictures on Facebook that had a political message – not surprising in an election year or at a time when crises overwhelm Europe. The pictures were spectacular and the explanation that went with them scolded the viewer over what they depicted…but they were false pictures. Real enough images, but taken from an earlier time and a different situation and captioned fraudulently.
Apparently not the first time that these pics were flogged round – Snopes had an article on them and was able to identify the origin. They are apparently considered too good not to use when a suitable political story can be tagged on them.
Someone said that was not the point…suggesting that the opinion they were used to support was correct even if the images were fraudulently displayed. I beg to differ.
Editorial use of photoshopped pictures gets the photographer, editor, and publisher in trouble with their governing bodies and their viewers. People expect truth – not falsehood. At it’s mildest it is just inaccuracy but at the worst it is blatant propaganda. Hezbollah, Premier Kim, and Joseph Stalin used doctored pictures extensively – fortunately there are enough real pictures and people who understand imaging to catch them out on it. A recent photographer lost a press award over the PS of an editorial image and it was not even a malicious act. It can also cost people dearly in contests where a no-PS rule is imposed on art pictures.
Where an image is not represented as entire reality – where an artist’s interpretation or presentation is normal, the restriction comes off. No-one told Manet where to use the brushes on his canvases ( for that matter no-one told Dali where to throw the cats or buckets of water on his… ) and the viewer is free to make as much or as little of the representation as they like.
If they wish to attach a socialist or ecological message to the famous picture of the square at Waterloo they are free to do it – and as they cannot have participated in the original battle, no-one is under any obligation to believe them. I’ve been in the front rank of a British square at a re-enactment of Waterloo* and I can assure you that socialism and ecology have nothing whatever to do with it.
- And I have a picture of me doing it, published in an enthusiast’s book. June 18, 1995. On a portion of the real battlefield in Belgium. The musket is a movie prop and the nervous Highlander poised to receive cavalry is not Scottish, but everything else about it is real.