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VISUAL LIES VS TEXTUAL LIES STATE OF THE ART




It's said that a picture is worth more than a thousand words. Seeing is believing. wyswyg " What you see is what you get" . Are you sure? Look at these pictures carefully. Scrutinise them. What do you think of them. Optical Illusion! Or are you having delusion? Persecution or grandeur?

I stumbled upon the articles below in Jeff Ooi's Screenshots that I thought would shed some lights on expertise of photographers and journalists that work for major newspapers. After all, many Malay ladies would weep just by watching Bollywood Films. It is NOT that they don't know what they are watching are just a group of actors/ actresses acting according to SCRIPTS under the instruction of a movie director.

Digital manipulation of press photos


By CY Leow

I read with anticipation of what Jeff is going to reveal in “Digital manipulation of photo-journalism”. Most readers agreed that you can't believe what you read in the papers. Now you can't even trust your own eyes in the authenticity of the published photographs!

The art of trick photography is almost as old as photography itself. Many years ago, imaginative photographers learned about double exposures, perspective tricks, cut-and-paste techniques and other ways of altering photographs, all without the help of computers and Photoshop!

I remember with amusement

In the early 70’s when I first joined The Star as their first Photo Editor in Penang, there was this photographer who “excelled” in darkroom trickery. Those were the days that we were using Nikkormat camera with manual focusing lens, I remember with amusement that many times when he came back from a night soccer match, he would lock himself in the darkroom to “create” the ball in his shots! He somehow perfected the use of “cotton wool ball on photo paper” during enlarger exposure to create a “fuzzy ball” in his photos! The sports desk at the paper used his doctored “action shots” many times! ;-)

The plane… the plane!
Shortly after the horrifying events of 9/11, a story was widely circulated that a camera that somehow survived the collapsed New York WTC Twin Towers was found on a sidewalk. When the film was developed, it revealed a tourist on the World Trade Center observation deck with a low-flying plane in the background and about to crash into the building! Many people believe in that incredible shot and that “Tourist Guy” became a folklore… ha ha ha.

Of course, the image is a fake. The North Tower had no open observation deck; it's the wrong type of plane at the wrong angle; that Tourist Guy has been identified as a 25-year-old Hungarian named Peter and on his way to becoming the most digitally manipulated person in history! Check it out at http://touristofdeath.com/.

Tidak Apa…

Malaysian newspapers do not take image manipulation of their published pictures seriously. In some ways, this is because the Malaysian readers don’t care or protest too much when that happens.

Granted, when I was Picture Editor, I gave strict instructions that I will not tolerate manipulation of NEWS PICTURES and if any pictures are altered in any way, the caption must say so; failing which we are trying to cheat the readers.

Even so, some manipulated pictures got published and when the Senior Editors were informed they adopted a “Tidak-apa-so-what” attitude. Since no one was reprimanded, the abuses happened again and again!

Superimposition…

The most commonly used “technique” used in the Malaysian newspapers, the “smart” editor thinks that since the photographer cannot marry the performer and the audiences into one striking shot, we will do this:

The shot of Hong Kong pop star Jacky Cheung during his concert in Kuala Lumpur National Stadium, Friday, April 23, 1999. Cheung was in Malaysia to hold his third world tour.

I had asked dozens of readers after this picture appeared and guess what, no one mind that the picture was manipulated by superimposing!

Mountain out of Mole Hill…

Take a close look at this picture below and see if you can spot the manipulation.

Look good? You cannot see anything wrong with it?

This news picture from Penang was published on the front page of The Star, Northern Edition. When I saw the edition in KL the next day, I immediately realized something was awry! See that man on the left, beside the stainless “tea pots”; don’t he looked out of proportion? And where were his LEGS? On closer examination, take a look at his hand that was resting on the pot lid:

What happened to his finger? What about the reflection on the shinny lid? Huh?

A call to the Penang office confirmed my suspicion. That front page picture was a “combination” of two shots taken on different days!

Before we go on, let’s look at the picture caption:

PENSIONER TEOH AH ENG (LEFT) ATTENDING TO HIKERS
WHO HELPED THEMSELVES TO FREE DRINKS ATOP THE HILL.

Yes, that was captioned by a trained, qualified; well paid reporter!!
It turned out that the photog who did the job only got a shot of Ah Eng (bottom pic), the story was about him giving free drinks to hikers which were not on his emulsion!

The photographers was dispatched back to get a shot of Eng WITH the hikers but when the snapper got there Ah Eng has gone home!

The “quick minded” photog then decided to snap the picture on top and the Editor (dead line pressing) gave his/her blessing to marry the two picture together for publication! They would have got away scot-free had they not do such a shoddy manipulation job!

I, then the Picture Editor reported to our Group Editor and all I get was a “Aii-yoo, how can they do that!” End of story.

I types out a inter-office memo and got all the photographers to sign and if they do that again they will face the music. Yeah Right!

Look Better Without The Background…

During the heated days of Anwar Ibrahim’s trail, one of the “star” witnesses Ummi Hafilda was saying that she was suing Harakah for calling her a “small time hooker”.

This picture, a strong, expressive news-worthy shot appeared on the front page of The Star, nationally. Why… I even picked and sold the picture successfully to the Editors for the front the next day!

Everything seemed “honky-dory” except the original picture that looked like this!
Some smart aleck artist felt that those brown picture frames in the background “destroyed” the composition and he “artistically” ERASED THEM without asking the Editor, the Picture Editor. When questioned, he claimed that his Art Supervisor approved the “changes”!

You readers might think that this is NO BIG DEAL, hello… you are CHANGING HISTORY, that picture is a WITNESS to history! And as expected, no one get reprimanded… tidak apa lah!

The Last Laugh…

Thought I will show you another published picture from The Star.

The picture was of children from the Montford Boys Town waving their flags to support the Sauber Team at the qualifying rounds of the Petronas Malaysia GP.

What???!!@# You might think that the photographer got crappy reflexes and got the car cut off at the frame edge?

Well, the submitted picture was below

No manipulation was done, really... Just Sub Editors that don’t care about their work, if you wonder how such boo boo can happen; well… they do. Too often, go look for them!

HAPPY PHOTOSHOPPING!

OK folks, that's from CY Leow, based on his personal experience in Malaysia, in the last century -- before the Year 2000 that is.

Last week, I saw one such visual lie in a national mainstream paper on March 22, 2006. I want to re-ask my three questions on journalistic practice:

1. How far can "Photoshop" techniques be employed to 'doctor', or digitally manipulate, news photos which chronicle history?

2. Is there a code of ethics on photo manipulation among press photographers in Malaysia?

3. If news photos can be digitally manipulated, is there any guarantee that the same will not be done on textual reporting?
FURTHER READING [HERE] AND [HERE]

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