Original or Altered (Answers)

Before and After Comparisons

1) When TIME magazine put a mugshot of OJ Simpson on its cover in June 1994 following the brutal double slaying of his ex-wife and her friend, the magazine was widely criticized for manipulating the color tones and shadows to make Simpson appear more ominous and to incite racial sentiments. TIME magazine defended their choice as “artistic interpretation.” In contrast, Newsweek magazine published an undoctored version of the same mugshot for its cover that same week as well, making TIME’s manipulation of the image that much more apparent.

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2) This is one of at least 79 altered photos that veteran news photographer Allan Detrich of the Toledo Blade was found to have modified prior to their publication in the paper. In this particular photo, an image of a basketball was digitally inserted into the photograph, presumably to balance the composition and add excitement to the play being captured by the shot. Despite his reputation as a Pulitzer Prize finalist, the criticism he received for editing the photos beyond the newspaper’s accepted standards led to Detrich’s resignation and a public apology from the paper.

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3) In 2008, the Liberty Times published a photo of a visit from a Taiwanese delgation to the Vatican with Pope Benedict. The photo that ran in the paper, however, had been significantly modified to remove the publisher of a rival publication from the center of the image. The paper and the reporter who edited the photo came under criticism that their actions “violated journalistic ethics.”

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4) A pair of photos taken in 2003 near Basra, Iraq, were combined to make a single, more dramatic image. The two photos were from a series of images shot within moments of each other by photographer Brian Walski that depicted scenes of British soldiers and Iraqi civilians in the war-ravaged region. Before transmitting the day’s photos back to his newspaper in Los Angeles, Walski chose two of the photos—neither of which was exceptional on its own—and composited the best parts of each photo into a single image. In one photo, an armed soldier was caught in a striking pose with his arm outstretched while an Iraqi man holding a child was somewhat visible in the background, looking away. In the second photo, the man with the child was more prominent and looking at the soldier, but the soldier’s posture was less dramatic. By compositing the two photos from the same actual event, Walski manufactured a moment in time that never actually existed. Upon the discovery of his selective altering of events, the LA Times fired Walski, stating that, “What Brian did is totally unacceptable and he violated our trust with our readers.”

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5) In 2005, USA Today briefly ran a photo of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in which her eyes had been unnatuarally brightened, resulting in a “menacing, demon-eyed stare.” After the manipulated photo came to light, USA Today pulled the photo from its website and offered the following explanation:

"Editor’s note: The photo of Condoleezza Rice that originally accompanied this story was altered in a manner that did not meet USA TODAY’s editorial standards. The photo has been replaced by a properly adjusted copy. Photos published online are routinely cropped for size and adjusted for brightness and sharpness to optimize their appearance. In this case, after sharpening the photo for clarity, the editor brightened a portion of Rice’s face, giving her eyes an unnatural appearance. This resulted in a distortion of the original not in keeping with our editorial standards.”—USA Today
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6) In 2009, controversy arose concerning the amount of post-processing of images that should be allowed in a Danish photo contest. Photojournalist Klavs Bo Christensen was disqualified from the event after contest judges decided that his submission crossed the line of what was acceptable. Christensen has disputed the judges’ decision, claiming that the alterations he made to the color and saturation levels (i.e., “burning,” “dodging,” and “color correction") fall within the letter of the contest rules, which include the following restriction:

"Photos submitted to Picture of The Year must be a truthful representation of whatever happened in front of the camera during exposure. You may post-process the images electronically in accordance with good practice. That is cropping, burning, dodging, converting to black and white as well as normal exposure and color correction, which preserves the image’s original expression.”

The judges disagreed, saying that Christensen’s photographs “went too far” and that, “The colors almost look like they have been sprayed onto the pictures.”

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