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posted 2016.06.18 - modified 2017.02.13

Manipulated photography?

MA proposal on how to mark manipulated photography

Does it really matter? Is photography meant to be true?



The discussion on Steve McCurrys confirmed photo manipulation makes this issue still more important. I now, more than ever, believe that my proposal on this is a good way to start.
All manipulated photography on this web is now marked with a clear M and an explanation.

I want to stress that this is not to propose another rule that everyone should follow. This is meant as an option to photographers like me who still believes that photography is one of the few media which still comes closest to a true mirror of our visible reality.
Of course, a photography is never true – I try to do documentary art photography. When the temptation to remove a thrashcan or an ashtray becomes too strong, you may at least retain your reputation as an honest photographer with this symbol.

This is my CSS-solution, feel free to improve

Enclose your IMG-element with a DIV with class “mani”:

<div class='mani'><img src='yourimagehere'></div>

Add this to your stylesheet:

.mani {position: relative;}
.mani::before {
  color:#fff !important;border:3px solid #fff !important;border-radius: 50%;
  background-color: rgba(0,0,0,0.3);
  line-height: 1em !important;
  font-family: "century gothic",helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight: bold;
  font-size: 18px; padding: 4px 6px; /* adjust to your pref */
  position:absolute;top:20px;right:20px; /* adjust to your pref */

The text below is the original version of this thought from November 2010:

I have been struggling with this question for years. And only days ago, I published my first manipulated, straight photo on this blog. Manipulated/real/straight photography? Is that possible? Read on …
In the old, analog days, the retouching of any picture meant to describe reality (photo journalism) was a no-no. It was widely used in communist Soviet-Union to effectively remove no longer wanted persons from history.

In commercial photography, manipulation is a tool of the trade and modern technology may soon remove all classic product photography and replace it with 3D-generated models. But even then, these pictures will still be presented as PHOTOGRAPHS. Why? Because photography for a long time has (rightly or wrongly) been associated with truth and a  realistic rendering of our common reality.

And herein lies my problem. I love photography and I love reality. In my eyes the magic of my own photography lies in capturing what I see in any moment. Nothing added, nothing removed. As you can see, I am more than most photographers occupied with Photography as Photography. This does not mean that I frown upon photographers working in the classic pictorialist tradition, visit the Norwegian photographer Per Fronth for extremely nice, manipulated art photography. Neither does it mean that I reject  landscape photography which has been manipulated to give the impression that it is a real landscape.

Not OK:
Soviet leader Stalin and the disappeared water commissar, Nikolai Yezhov
Classic pictorialist photography by Per Fronth
CC-BY-SA 3.0 – by Mmxx

So should manipulated photos be marked? I think so. At least if they pretend to reflect reality and the manipulation is not obvious.

In 1994 the British National Union of Journalists proposed two symbols to mark what they called “Manipulated Image” and “Genuine Photography” (they did not succeed, perhaps because one of the symbols also meant OK for dry-cleaning).

Wikimedia Commons sign for retouched pictureAs I write this, I discover that the Wikimedia Commons already has a template which should be used to say that this is a retoched picture. This is nice, but it seems complicated to use outside the Wikimedia environment (they  don’t even supply a transparent png).

This is why I propose a symbol which is far easier to understand and use. It resembles the well known copyright symbol, but this one comes with an M inside the circle instead of a C.

I have already  used it on this picture in this blog. You will find a description of the manipulation in this thought.

Feel free to use! You will find a useful set of variations in this Zip-file. It includes white, gray and black variations plus the original TIFF-file.

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