Law For Digitally Altered Photographs

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Hello Folks,
Here is an interesting article from yesterday's NY Times describing a woman’s quest to have digitally altered photographs labeled by law as “retouched”.
Although the article & her reasoning is for our society to not be swayed by skinny models and promote anorexia, I found it to be an interesting debate and gives me more reason to stick with analog photography..... less temptation to alter.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/03/fashion/03Boyer.html?_r=1

Steve
 

keithwms

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Of course, it is also possible to do *major* revisions of a photograph by purely analogue means... were Hurrell's starlets really that perfect? And even St. Ansel himself essentially cloned out a sign on a mountain in a photograph. Sure, such things aren't considered unethical, but... just sayin' :wink:

It's an interesting argument, though.
 

wfe

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Retouching has been going on since photography was invented. Anyone who believes it to be limited to or only a digital process is clearly not aware and knows little about photography.
 

keithwms

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I agree Bill.

The difference in the digital case, though, is that the editing can take place at or even below the level of single pixels. So, in principle, it is possible for us to digitally graft your head onto Cindy Crawford's body, publish it, and nobody will ever know. :surprised: And this can be done very quickly, inexpensively... and disseminated rapidly. In fact, the level of sophistication is now such that I could even do this in a motion picture... e.g. I could graft your head onto Suzanne Somer's body in a thighmaster commercial. :D Hell, I could graft your head onto Pamela Anderson's body in a porn movie with that nasty rocker dude. :tongue: We have the technology :wink: (and this technology is actually way further ahead than most people realize, driven in part by security concerns, which has given a big boost to facial recognition software, and also of course high res gaming and entertainment).

So... while I agree that people can do all kinds of manipulations by purely analogue means, it's clear that digital takes the issue to a totally diofferent level... and invokes many more complicated ethical questions.
 

wiltw

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There is retouching and there is total image manipulation, two different things in my mind. I am aware of retouching, double exposures etc with the analog process but you must admit, the tricks for analog manipulation are pretty limited.

The real difficulty is defining with precision where one has crossed the line from 'retouching' to 'distortion', just as there is a fine and moving line between 'art' and 'pornography' that has been debated for a very long time.
 

Jeremy

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There is retouching and there is total image manipulation, two different things in my mind.

And where will this line be drawn? That's the stickler--it has to be spelled out in black and white for it to be a law.

I am aware of retouching, double exposures etc with the analog process but you must admit, the tricks for analog manipulation are pretty limited.

I think your awareness of what you can do with analog manipulation is rather limited, not the process. A very obvious example: Jerry Uelsmann.
 

David A. Goldfarb

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You might be surprised at the kinds of things that can and have been done extensively with hand retouching, masking, and stripping techniques. Unfortunately my old retouching manuals are in storage at the moment or I'd post a few examples, but most of the things that people are concerned about in the fashion and beauty world have been done for decades. They required more work and more skill than they do today, but the major advertisers and magazines had the budget for it.
 

Bob Carnie

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There is nothing new, image comp has been around for over 100years, people have been lying with photos from day one.
Digital just allows you to lie much faster. Also 100x as many people can do this digitally .
 

David A. Goldfarb

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Here is one of the texts that describes the manual retouching techniques available in 1941, unfortunately without the illustrations that are in the original book--

http://www.archive.org/stream/artofretouchinga000681mbp/artofretouchinga000681mbp_djvu.txt

Johnson & Hammond's "Art of Retouching" said:
EXAMPLE OF KNIFE AND ABRASIVE WORK. Fig
ures 5 and 6 show an example of what can be done with
the knife and other methods of reducing. The negative
was made for " alterations and repairs." The spots and
freckles were put on with greasepaint, the cigarette was
intended for ultimate removal and one eye was pur
posely slightly closed. It was decided that a slice taken
off each cheek would make the subject look more roman
tic, that balance in the eyes would give him a straighter
outlook on life and that the finger mixed up with his right
ear might as well be amputated. Being against a dark
background, the finger presented a better and quicker
job for the knife or razor blade rather than for abrasive
paste, and it was carefully etched away.

The cigarette was " consumed " partly by abrasion
and partly with the knife. The eyeHds were balanced
by the same means. The line between the lips and the
line of the upper lip, which had been raised when the
cigarette was held there, were also corrected. The nose
was thinned at the top, and a piece was worked off each
side of the jawbone to complete the modifications. As
the removal of the finger left the hand rather too straight
from the knuckles to the finger joints, a portion of a first
finger was pencilled in to break the line.
 

Q.G.

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If this needs a law, we also need a law stating that every bit of spoken or written word comes with a label saying "opinion".

We don't, i think.
 

mark

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In the Op-Ed video, attached to the linked article, the narrator has a good idea. Put the name of the retoucher in the photo credits.
Might get them some more work.
 

MikeSeb

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This "problem" does not seem to be amenable to a legal solution. The retouching issue is a stalking horse for her real agenda, having to do with eating disorders. Without in any way meaning to downplay the gravity of eating disorders, it's not at all certain what causes or exacerbates them, just as it's not at all settled science that listening to certain music motivated the Columbine shooters to do their evil business.

Seems that the common knee-jerk reaction is "there oughtta be a law" and some congressperson is all too happy to supply one, with common sense and personal responsibility the casualties.

"Hard cases make bad law" remains, as ever, true.
 
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Denis K

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If you have a painted wall and a portion of the paint on the wall gets scuffed up, you can go down to Home Depot and get a can of custom paint that "perfectly" matches the original paint. And let us imagine that they do an outstanding job and upon painting the scuffed up section, nobody can tell the difference. However, what you will find is that 10 years later, the section you painted will no longer match the original. The two paints, once the same color, have faded at different rates. I firmly believe there is a moral to this experience, and that is that you really can't retouch a photograph. Even if you wish to do so what you end up with is two different artifacts, and I don't mean this only in the physical sense. Imagine you are looking at a picture of a New York City street scene from the 1800's. Suppose that the photographer didn't like the sight of a horse drawn cart so he retouched it out. Someone who is used to seeing horse drawn carts and looking at the photograph a few days later may be none the worse off for the absence. However, if you or I were to look at the image today, we would be short changed. The photographer’s dissonance would have ended up being our symphony. The passage of time has transformed what was supposed to be an improvement into a flaw.

Denis K
 

Q.G.

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What if that horse drawn cart had happened not to be there when the original was taken?

The flaw perhaps is in your expectations? Why would you expect to see certain things (to complete your (!) harmonious symphony?) after the passage of time?
 

lxdude

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...Bill... :sad:I could graft your head onto Suzanne Somer's body in a thighmaster commercial. :D Hell, I could graft your head onto Pamela Anderson's body in a porn movie with that nasty rocker dude. :tongue:

I read this while waiting for dinner. Now I have an eating disorder. :sad:
 

Denis K

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What if that horse drawn cart had happened not to be there when the original was taken?

The flaw perhaps is in your expectations? Why would you expect to see certain things (to complete your (!) harmonious symphony?) after the passage of time?

Q.G., The operative words in my post was that, "I firmly believe ..."

You obviously feel otherwise. Variety is the spice of life.

Denis K
 

marcant21

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I'm wondering when photographs and video will be rejected in the courts as evidence. Eventually we're at a point where we don't believe anything we see.
 

df cardwell

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I'm wondering when photographs and video will be rejected in the courts as evidence. Eventually we're at a point where we don't believe anything we see.


In court, you can demonstrate whether something is real or faked by analysis that can't be used on television or in print media.

More profound than lying in fashion and advertising, to me at least, is the presentation of visual fiction as reality in the corporate media.

Exhibit A: Fox News. Of course Fox uses the simplest of methods to deceive, and outside a court of law there IS no requirement to be truthful. You just say you're being honest, and if you sell your product, you sell your product.

Caveat Emptor, and then some !

.
 

removed-user-1

Seems that the common knee-jerk reaction is "there oughtta be a law" and some congressperson is all too happy to supply one, with common sense and personal responsibility the casualties.

"The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be." Lao Tzu
 

df cardwell

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"The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be." Lao Tzu

Seems the ones crying for a return to common sense are those bent on deception, the great and powerful preying on the weak.
 

Larry Bullis

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There is nothing new, image comp has been around for over 100years, people have been lying with photos from day one.
Digital just allows you to lie much faster. Also 100x as many people can do this digitally .

When photography was new, it's ability to present things convincingly as they really appear was very quickly adapted to presentation of more convincing fabrications. Jerry Uelsmann's forebears, Robinson and Rejlander, used photographic material in ways similar to the way that painters at the time assembled their subjects. Of course it wasn't easy at all, it took a lot of work. Henry Peach and Oscar would love photoshop if they were to be resurrected.

Ford Maddox Brown:
http://www.shafe.co.uk/crystal/images/lshafe/Maddox_Brown_Work_1862-3.jpg

Oscar Rejlander:
http://www.edinphoto.org.uk/0_p/0_photographs_in_exhibitions_rejlander_-_two_ways_of_life.jpg
 

MattKing

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I'm wondering when photographs and video will be rejected in the courts as evidence. Eventually we're at a point where we don't believe anything we see.

Photographs rarely stand alone as evidence in court. Instead, they tend to be used to support other evidence.

Generally speaking, when a photograph or video is used in court, it must be authenticated in some way.

In most cases, that authentication takes the form of a witness giving evidence that says that the photograph accurately shows something that the witness also observed.

If photographs depict something that wasn't witnessed directly (e.g. security cameras, or high magnification macro photography), the court will also need evidence about the reliability of the means of image capture, and the process used to make and retrieve the image.

Also, in a lot of cases, photography is used in court for demonstrative purposes. As an example, a lawyer in a motor vehicle accident case may use photographs taken at a different time that show the intersection where the accident took place. In order to make use of those photographs, there would need to be a witness giving evidence indicating that the photographs accurately depict that intersection, and that the intersection was unchanged between accident date and photography date.

Matt
 

mark

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In an educational law class I had to take, I remember reading a court transcript where an expert witness was asked if the negative for a photograph had been authenticated as untouched.

Was this a common practice, and is it even possible do that with a digital file?
 
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