ACCEPTING MANIPULATION OR MANIPULATING WHAT’S ACCEPTABLE?
By AARON QUINN
A look into the Authors topic immediately tells one to look out for manipulation. Manipulation, according to the Cambridge dictionary is controlling someone or something to one’s own advantage and it is often done unfairly or dishonestly. Aaron, the author, has set out to put the record straight on media manipulation. He explores instances where it is unavoidable and sheds floodlights on cases where it is done for pure malice.
The author’s ethical issue is photographic integrity. He argues that photographers in recent times are engaging in unethical actions such as post shoot manipulations and the unavoidable manipulations made on the scene such as change of lenses and light senses. In both manipulations, the author is tasked with a choice because at the end he/she will have to make an ethical one. The manipulations that are done on the ground are out of necessity such as camera settings. Post-shot manipulations present both ethical and unethical issues made possible by digital technologies that are on the rise. Unethical photo manipulation however goes way back and it started with dark room photography.
The author firmly believes that media is the whistle blower in society; they are supposed to be incorruptible and are supposed to highlight anything that is bound to affect society. He advocates for three types of ethical doctrines; consequentialism, deontology and virtual theories that should guide a photographer to ethical practices. Consequentialism is a view of morality that states that every action carried out has consequences and one should consider what its effects to others is. The author feels that consequentialism should be carried out by carrying out accurate photos and photos that aim at telling the truth, not half-truths or lies.
Virtue theory talks about the virtues that should be upheld in the course of producing credible works. They are integrity, accuracy and truth according to the writer. Integrity to uphold what is right even when faced with a dilemma, making photo manipulations that will still tell the true story and not a fabricated one and accuracy of photo settings so that they are just right.
Deontology is a branch of ethics dealing with moral duty and obligation and the ability to take the right action.
A journalist has to have values and virtues to be able to be reproductive as well as ethical in his undertakings. Every photographer has to make choices daily and they have to be ethical regardless of the consequences. It is interesting to note that the author is not advocating for mediocrity but the employment of all virtues not just one. He argues that one cannot simply uphold some rules and let others slide as that would be unethical and unprofessional. He goes ahead to promote fairness, credibility, accuracy and prudency in news reporting. A combination of all these lead to equity and equality does away with bias and avoids inaccurate juxtapositions.
Photo journalists are faced with all sorts of ethical challenges and to make matters worse, it’s like they have to make a decision for each process and each activity especially in post-shoot manipulations in order to remain ethically upright.
Colour balancing might appear simple especially in this new world where we take selfies and take them through several filters without a care in the world. A photojournalists’ world is however different. For them too much color or too little would adversely damage their careers as it would easily be interpreted as malice or intentional impropriety. Inside the camera, colour correction is often made to achieve the natural colour of objects. Outside the camera, colour correction can be achieved by warming or cooling. Warming involves infusing shades of reds and yellow. Cooling involves infusing hues of blue or blue and green and is often used in cold environments to try and legitimize the expected look of a cold environment. In the effort to re-create the natural environment, it becomes less accurate and therefore corrupts the work as ethics are not upheld. The author, advices the photographer to leave it to the camera to do its job. There are however a few exceptions where colour correction is allowed that are ethical. If the camera has a technical flaw that needs correcting and if a head of state dies shortly after a flawed photo is taken, a colour balance is inevitable because the photo needs to properly convey the subject’s illness.
Cropping is the act that aims at reducing the size of an image at its borders for desired visual impact. The photographer aims at getting attention to the particular shot by eliminating unwanted background. Cropping is essential in maximizing a news piece. It however has its disadvantages too if done too much it can lose essential information and loss of relevant visual data.
Dodge and burn is another unethical practice that should not even see the light of day. This is because it does not achieve anything at all professionally. It is the practice of lightening or darkening parts of an image. Dodge and burn is essentially wrong because it evades the truth so it is a lie carried out for whatever reason. It attempts at covering perceived flaws and imperfections, creating aesthetic manipulations, creating false impacts and re-creating environments are unethical because it is false hood.
The authors stand is simple, he would like photographers to take photography seriously just like any other profession. Professionals carry out their work without caring of anything else but being ethical in their work for them to be able to carry out a good job. He argues that even if photo manipulation began a long time ago, that does not justify its continued carrying out. He blames the easier manipulations to technology but I would also like to add that the continued erosion of morals in the present of society fuels to the need for manipulation as well. The current society is a big consumer of falsehood and loves superficial things so in essence; these photojournalists are only feeding a society’s appetite. If the society chooses to uphold the truth, then manipulation of photos may be on the decline because they will be shunned. Nothing that is bad for business can continue to be condoned and sooner than later the practice is bound to die. Photojournalism can also take up the responsibility to make better professionals and delivering beautiful reporting that is accurate and truthful. Responsible actions can be made by daily effort to be better to strive to achieve a better grasp of consistency. Untrue representations, whether the journalists are aware or not, lead to the ailments we now see in society. We are a society that gladly consumes news as the total truth especially since the press has been our watch dogs for a long time. Careful consideration should therefore be made to see how best to impact a society. The media was created to propagate good not evil and those virtues should be upheld. The media loses power when integrity, accuracy and power are compromised. It may sound odd but both the media and the public need each other to keep each other in check. Slaking from either side will produce grievous results.