Can you believe photographs these days? Could you ever?
After all, Photoshop makes child’s play of doctoring a digital image. Don’t like Teddy Roosevelt on Mount Rushmore? Click. Drag. How about Ronald Reagan?
How about the photo of the great white shark about to gulp the scuba diver dangling from a helicopter ladder?
How about war photos?
Question: can photographs continue to be used as evidence? Answer: yes. So far.
Old news hound photogs often used props. One Minneapolis guy carried a kid’s tricycle, a teddy bear and a single tennis shoe in his trunk. Once on scene, he would toss them into the foreground. Empathy added.
Remember those Civil War photos of the dead guy and his rifle lying nearby. Poppycock. Scavengers would have made off with the weapon long before the photographer set up.
By the 1930s, allegations arose that a New Deal photographer had inserted the skull of a steer into photographs of parched agricultural land to accentuate the sense of suffering. So writes Craig Lambert in the current issue of Harvard Magazine. Click here.
He quotes Robin Kelsey, Loeb associate professor of the humanities, who approaches photography like an art historian.
“Today, of course, cell phones and the Internet have made nearly everyone a potential photojournalist. For Kelsey, the ability to disseminate images globally via the Web is a far more significant historical shift than the change from film to digital photography (though they are, of course, technologically related).”
Ponder that, grasshopper.