Monday, 18 October 2010

DPP1: Exercise 23 : Subtraction

By happy coincidence I find I’ve completed the technical requirement for this exercise in response to my tutors comments on my first assignment.
This is the photo I submitted to the assignment:

My tutors comment was that he would have preferred to see more of the woman on the right, but perhaps I should clone her out altogether to leave a character portrait of the man – which is what I did:

I also took the opportunity to clone out the doorbell to reduce the ‘modernity’ of the picture. Interestingly the door was quite difficult to do convincingly. It would have been easy to produce a featureless layer of black – but that’s what it looked like – on the other hand – I had relatively little information to work with on the door details so I added in what I feel is enough to give a convincing result without risking obvious re-use of picture elements.
Ethical issues
I am clear in my own mind that manipulating a photo in this way is not un-ethical providing the intent is not to deceive. In this case it is done to produce a better portrait of the man in period dress – and for no other reason.
Clearly the editor of the Toledo Blade did not share my view in these examples
As a counter example – it is clearly un-ethical to remove people who subsequently become political opponents from photos as in these examples – although, given that these are pre-digital you have to admire the skill of the air-brushers.


  1. Nice work. I agree that the manipulation you performed doesn't raise any obvious ethical issues, given that the picture is a character study and not meant as a record of the day. The context was different in the Toledo Blade pictures in that they were represented as photojournalism - a record of those particular events. I think that makes a difference. You could argue that some of the cloning was relatively trivial - just tidying up - but adding the ball into the basketball picture clearly is quite significant and changes how we read it. I think myself that there's a real danger that we can get blase about use of the clone tool, as I suspect that photographer did, and end up with something which is dishonest.

  2. Wouldn't disagree that the basketball was a step to far - although I don't really see what the practical consequences were.

    I guess the real issue is - once you're on the slippery slope, where do you stop? This then plays into issues of trust, both at an individual level between the editor and the photographer, and at the broader level between the newspaper and its readers.