Truth in Advertising? Truth in Photojournalism?
In The New York Times today is this story prompted by a bill before the French Parliament that would require labeling of any advertising photograph that has been retouched. It reminded me of this recent note at PDN Pulse (via the inimitable Jörg Colberg) calling attention to the following new rule promulgated by the folks World Press Photo for all images entered into their annual contest:
"The content of an image must not be altered. Only retouching which conforms to currently accepted standards in the industry is allowed. The jury is the ultimate arbiter of these standards and may at its discretion request the original, unretouched file as recorded by the camera or an untoned scan of the negative or slide."Is there a plausible notion of truth lurking here somewhere? Or is it a notion of honesty? Or, is it perhaps something else? Are we worried about manipulation? Are we looking as images a representation or as communication or . . .? The standards are different depending on your answer but, regardless, are dictated by the aims of the photographer and those who take up her work and use it for their own, sometimes quite different purposes. In any case, would Evans's or Lange's images have passed muster under the new rules and proposed law? They weren't 'retouched' (much) but both were posed or arranged. In short, there are all sorts of theoretical issues lurking behind photographic practice. And, to be frank, most critics and photographers and curators and industry or art-world types are clueless about them. Why stop to figure out just what is worrisome about the new rules and proposed laws when you can simply express indignation or outrage?