Photojournalism works on the public perception that photographs have more sense of the truth than the words on a page. However, with modern technologies and deliberate cropping of images, to what extent is this perception true?
Before photographs were used in newspapers, representation of scenes visually were displayed through carved prints. This allowed the reader to grasp a sense of the events decisive moment, such as an explosion, whereas modern photographers only capture the after effects of events at that scale. Even though the prints were drawn, therefore not representing the truth as well as a photograph, the print allowed the reader to gain an insight into what the incident really looked like.
Anchoring a photograph is very important, as an image is open to numerous interpretations. This can be used to the editor’s benefit, as a photo can be recycled and used in different stories, such as a soldier fighting in Iraq could be used for numerous war stories. Anchoring encourages the reader to view the image in a certain light.
Nowadays, the technologies in place to alter images are readily available, and used to suit the interests of the paper, but in most cases are doctored to sensationalise a story to grab the reader’s attention. Possibly the most memorable of these recently were the doctored images in “The Daily Mail” of prisoners in Iraq being abused; a stunt in which Piers Morgan lost his job. This fact alone conjures questions about the authenticity of photographs in modern media. This also begins to disprove the work of media theorists, such as Sontag, who stated photographs offer a trace of what was there, and provide a tangible proof of something that happened.
Cropping is also an easy means of creating new meaning to an image. Leaving out certain aspects of an image that may sway the direction of a story produces another sense of falsity in the scene. However, in defence, a photograph is always a small part of the frame, and to experience a true representation of the scene, you would in fact have to witness the event first hand.
In conclusion, photography in the past, before the modern technological society, may have offered photographs as evidence of the truth. However, the means to doctor images in today’s society is so widely available and used, that images should not be taken at face value, as they may have been manipulated to suite the needs of the media.