Boing Boing’s contest entry. (boingboing.net, submitted by THEBLUEONE)
Source: The New York Times blogs
Written by Errol Morris
As almost everyone knows by now, various major daily newspaper published, on July 10, a photograph of four Iranian missiles streaking heavenward; then Little Green Footballs (significantly, a blog and not a daily newspaper) provided evidence that the photograph had been faked. Later, many of those same papers published a Whitman’s sampler of retractions and apologies. For me it raised a series of questions about images. Do they provide illustration of a text or an idea of evidence of some underlying reality or both? And if they are evidence, don’t we have to know that the evidence is reliable, that it can be trusted?
Hany Farid, a Dartmouth professor and an expert on digital photography, has published a number of journal articles and a recent Scientific American article on digital photographic fraud. He seemed to be a good person to start with. If a photograph has been tampered with, he’
s the person to analyze how the tampering has been done. I wanted to discuss with him the issue of the Iranian photograph starting with the issue of why we trust photographs in the first place.
Reinterpretation of photographs presented by Colin Powell, by Daniel Mooney.
There is a larger point. I don’t know what these buildings were really used for. I don’t know whether they were used for chemical weapons at one time, and then transformed into something relatively innocuous, in order to hide the reality of what was going on from weapons inspectors. But I do know that the yellow captions influence how we see the pictures. “Chemical Munitions Bunker” is different from “Empty Warehouse” which is different from “International House of Pancakes.”
The image remains the same but we see it differently.
Change the yellow labels, change the caption and you change the meaning of the photographs. You don’t need Photoshop. That’s the disturbing part. Captions do the heavy lifting as far as deception is concerned. The pictures merely provide the window-dressing. The unending series of errors engendered by falsely captioned photographs are rarely remarked on. –E.M.]