Phototruth Or Photofiction In this book Tom Wheeler tackles the moral question of changing images with digital manipulation. The thing that became clear to me reading this is that the arguments and objections, and indeed the very moral dilemma spring from journalism, documentary, the news and magazines where there is a feeling that the alterations are in someway Photo Fiction and this is making the masses distrust photography, they claim it will lead to the death of photography.

doomsayers, arguing that the computer is laying waste to any credibility photography has left, declare that the medium is dying. But most of the photographs that are being altered are the ones that were always altered by retouching. It’s in news and documentary that the unvarnished truth matters. There it’s still told, and there we still believe it. The camera continues to work with spunk and vigor on the creation of memories, and no one has stopped looking. The reports of photography’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
Life Spring 1999 Collectors Edition: Best Magazine Photography of the Year (1999) Life, Spring 1999 Collectors Edition .

This quote from Life Magazine is quoted in the introduction giving some hope that the author is not strictly from the Photoshop is killing photography camp. All in all this was an interesting book that explores the problems an differing camps in this debate with a fair degree of neutrality.

This book is broken into 20 chapters,

Chapter 1 covers the invention of photography and how people came to believe that the camera never lies.

Chapter 2  covers the lengths people went to to change images before the advent of digital photography it talks about the staging of images and how photographers would paint on them to alter them. It looks at composting and other ways people faked photographs long before the dawn of digital technology.

Chapter 3 looks at contemporary image-altering products and practices. It examines the way that accepting these methods could be a huge influence on public perception and have ramifications for many years to come.

Chapter 4 Looks at the detail of examples of manipulated images in nonfiction media and contemplates their effect on the credibility of the photograph.

Chapter 5 covers the defense of manipulation and examines the rationals that have been offered for them.

Chapter 6 looks at the use of ancient Greek teachings, the works of Enlightenment thinkers, the Bible, and even the American First Amendment to their constitution, along with other sources, to derive the ethical principles that are often applied in this argument.

Chapters 7 Taking Journalistic Photographs Chapter 8 Processing Journalistic Photographs and Chapter 9 Publishing Journalistic Photographs try to begin the process for building an ethical protocol, by understanding the long standing conventions of taking, processing, and publishing journalistic photos.

Chapter 10 The “Nonfiction Photographic Environment”, Chapter 11 Introducing the Reader’s “Qualified Expectation of Reality” and Chapter 12 Previewing the Guidelines for Photo Assessment, define the authors concept of what the non fiction photographic environment actual consists of.

Chapter 13 Photofiction Tests 1 and 2: The Viewfinder and Nonfiction Photography’s Process Tests, and Chapter 14 Photofiction Tests 3 and 4: The Technical Credibility and Obvious Implausibility Tests, provide a suggested solution to testing the appropriateness of altered images in nonfiction media.

Chapter 15 The Wording of a Disclosure and Chapter 16  The Prominence of a Disclosure, look at how alterations are and should be disclosed and how prominent that disclosure is and should be.

Chapter 17 Looks at cosmetic retouching.

Chapter 18 Applying the Guidelines: Case Studies, Chapter 19 Journalistic Photography Online: A Possible Future, and Chapter 20 A Fragile Fortress of Credibility, look at the application of the tests and principles supplied by the book, they offer case studies and offer a pledge  of Truth and Accuracy in Media Photography, and examine the possible future of journalistic photography on the Internet.

In conclusion this was a thought provoking book it has helped me to center myself In a year that has seen me abused for daring to take portraits of women to my utter disdain for the Department of work and Pensions, through to seeming to join the freebooters and pirates who will change anything in Photoshop to get the right image, I cant help feeling my rather conservative life is being dashed on the rocks of the arts, who knows I may end up in long hair and sandles yet (no chance).

The thing I did learn from my research and particularly from this book is where my pirate tenancies lie, the moral question as stated earlier really lies with Documentary and Journalism, if you are a fantasy artist and you want to recreate an image from Tolkien’s Middle Earth or Narnia these issues are on a completely different plane, my heart has always been in fantasy since I was about 11 and I sat up with a copy of lord of the rings because the boil on my ear would not let me sleep I have been a lover of the surreal and the fantastical. Photography for me wants to move that way. If you look at my current body of work there is no real clue in this as I seem to be an archeologist or an architectural buff, but the voice is emerging and this book has helped me to see how and to some extent when it will rear its head.

The bottom line is that this book created for me the idea of non fiction and fiction Photography, my desire is to create fiction Photography that is so believable that it may appear to be non fiction, I don’t however want it to be mistaken for photojournalism or used to create mas hysteria of the scale of the first radio broadcast of war of the worlds, although it would make me titter.