Altering Digital Photos Art or Fraud Term Paper

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Altering Digital Photos: Art or Fraud, And Societal Effects

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Is altering digital photographs art or fraud? After doing much reading on the idea of whether or not doctored digital photos are art, it seems that the consensus is that they are digital photos, and if they are imperfect, there is no problem with altering them to look better, if doing so causes any negative ethical effects. The question of whether or not they are works of art, according to current events and opinions, is not considered a problem unless they are being sold as original, instead of unaltered works of art. Most importantly, digital photos used as unethical or as legal evidence, can have dire consequences for the victims involved. Casimiro (2006) writes about how in the summer of 2003, Lance Corporal Ted "Joey" Boudreaux Jr., age twenty-five, was serving as a Marine in Iraq. Bored, Boudeaux Jr., manning the back gate of a base, was mingling with some locals, and some children posed, smiling, for a photo with him. The doctoring of this photo -- and I will explain the full details momentarily -- caused a series of events that led to an investigation of Boudeaux's behavior while serving in Iraq. An event like this leads to the larger question of ethics in digital photography and photojournalism. In an article by Winslow for the National Press Photographer's Association (2006), the author discusses many instances in which ethical standards concerning photography in journalism have been violated. The problem here is, altering digital photos in some instances can deeply affect the way news audiences view and understand an event, something that, if serious enough an issue, could change history.

Pearson (2006) states that since the natures of digital photos are alterable, these photos are never considered as legitimate legal evidence. Software have been developed where any alter in the digital images are spotted and traced that avoids altering of any digital piece as well. Clearly, this is not true, as the events concerning digital photography that Winslow (2006) occurred the same year Pearson wrote this statement.

Term Paper on Altering Digital Photos Art or Fraud Assignment

According to Winslow, doctoring of photos have taken place at prominent publications such as "The Charlotte Observe," "The Observer," and "The Los Angeles Times," where a staff photographer combined two photos into one of two photos taken in Iraq during the war.

I have read that photos have been doctored throughout history -- at least since 1817, with a photo of Lincoln. I viewed two photos of the protests in Tiananman Square in China in 1989. One photo featured only two large military tanks in the street. The other unaltered photo showed thousands of protesters surrounding these tanks on either side of the street, in peaceful protest. Viewing these photos on the news, on television, or in media publications, the photo with only the tanks might lead one -- living far away from the action, with only the media to rely on for news and current events information -- to believe that the military had overpowered the population, that the students had given up and "order" had been restored. Viewing the photo with the protesters, one might view the event as empowering, take pride in people in China practicing the human freedom of speech in the face of violence and possible death for their beliefs and voicing them. It is in this way that information can be misconstrued through the altering of digital photos. If you have enough people walking around misinformed, when does that start to mean that what they believe is truth vs. what is really happening is the truth? What power does one have living across the world from such an event, other than to trust the media?

It is not a new practice, but it is digital photography that is a recent invention. Just as I used the example of the Tiananman Square photographs, who's to say the same could not be done now with the current protests in Egypt? Photos could easily be doctored to edit out the murders of innocent protestors in the streets of Cairo. So far, it seems television news sources such as "Anderson Cooper 360" on CNN and other reporters are attempting to present as much accurate information as possible, but as far as print media, it's impossible to know for certain. One should not have to read newspapers or journals and keep doubt in their minds as to the truthfulness of the digital photographs depicting current events.

As for Marine Boudeaux Jr. who served in Iraq (Casimiro 2006), he was being friendly with the local children he met, they posed for a photo with him, and he moved

on. He later emailed the photo to his mother, a cousin, and a few friends, and he thought that was the end of it. Somehow -- Boudeaux does not know how -- the photo made into the hands of Internet bloggers, who made it a sign that read, "Lcpl Boudreaux saved my dad, then he rescued my sister." Other versions of the sign appeared -- one was completely blank, apparently to show how easily a photo can be doctored, and another said "My dad blew himself up on a suicide bombing and all I got was this lousy sign."

Boudeaux was not even aware of these goings-on until he returned home to Louisiana after his Iraq tour, when a Marine brought a printout of the "killed my dad" photo to the local Marine recruiter's office where Boudeax was serving. As aforementioned, as a result of the doctoring of an innocent photo, a prank, Boudeaux was investigated by the Pentagon for his behavior in Iraq and whether it was ethical. Why would someone do such a thing? Even if one is, say, an anti-war activist and does not believe Americans should have had a presence in Iraq, Boudeaux was just doing his job.

And aside from the false photos, there is no evidence that he was an unethically acting

Marine. This event was in 2003, and Pearson cites in 2006 that the development of computer technology that can detect alterations in digital photos, but I do not know if such programs existed in 2003. Nonetheless, the fact that a photo doctored by bloggers and perhaps others could -- without any other evidence -- lead to a Marine being investigated by the Pentagon for possible criminal behavior, is perhaps necessary, but also scary. What evidence does on rely on? Digital photos are normally not permissable as legal evidence in trials, so why in this one? And how often does it happen even though

it's not supposed to?

Another ethical problem that altered digital photographs poses is the doctoring of digital photos of female models that appear in popular women's magazines. Even famous models, such as Tyra Banks, have publicly admitted that the photos you see of them on the printed page are not necessarily representative of what the models actually look like. Tyra Banks appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" to speak about this issue. She presented examples of magazine cover photos upon which she appeared in a bikini, and showed how the photograph had been doctored to make it look as though her hips and thighs were a lot slimmer than they are on her own body. Women, but particularly young women, read these magazines and see these types of extremely thin women as ideal, and it affects their self-esteem, some young women develop eating disorders as a result of not feeling they look "good" or "thin" enough. This is one serious way in which doctoring digital photos has the potential to have serious and lasting negative effects on women in society.

In the chapter, "The Photo Marketplace and Contemporary Image Makers," by Peres (2007), his opinion regarding doctored photos is quite fitting to the discussion at hand:… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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