or

War Never Looked So Hip

(amended title because Joerg’s was MUCH better)

Take a look at this picture by Damon Winter, as featured on the (excellent) New York Times, Lens Blog, and part of a series featured in the newspaper:

The photographs have been taken using an iPhone that automatically applies heavy processing with an iPhone app. On James Estrin’s (LENS Editor) Facebook page Nina Berman had this to say:

In his introduction to the photos James makes the point,

‘Does it really matter what camera Damon Winter used to make these beautifully composed images? I don’t think so. It’s the images that are important.’


But I disagree.

Not that the photos aren’t ‘beautifully composed’, nor that there isn’t a skill in taking them. However to me the camera and the processing applied to the images is fundamental to how we respond to them. That’s why so many people are buying these Apps because as one website comment about the Hipstamatic iPhone App puts it:

I *love* the photos that come out of this app, it makes just about anything look amazing.

Even, it seems, the Afghan war.

Once again we are talking about how ‘beautiful’ the photos are, or what a great device the iPhone is, but not about the war in Afghanistan (although many people do comment that the photos bring them close to the lives of the soldiers). Would we really be talking about these pictures if they hadn’t been processed by an app on the iPhone?

Realistically we can only be debating the use of an iPhone because we are so detached from the reality on the ground for the many suffering Afghanis, despite the photography (or lack of it beyond American and British soldiers). Journalistically that must be viewed as a failure. It’s also a failure of democracy, the very thing we are trying to import into Afghanistan, because there is so little debate about the billions of dollars of taxpayers money that have been used to wage a war that we are only just starting to admit we can never win.

Not to mention the well documented torture and murder of Afghan citizens in detention by American soldiers.

In the meantime a lot of people have got very rich, some people have better lives, many have died and the photo community are rushing out to buy iPhone apps. Fair enough, I saw the pictures and want one too.

Maybe the New York Times can do an experiment, to help us understand how post processing affects the way we are manipulated by an image and wether these photos mean, as Nina Berman points out, that the ‘doors have been blown open.’ After all if an editorial standard is to be dumped there should be some kind of rational explanation.

Present the same images both with and without the additional processing (the camera’s standard JPEG)  and measure the response.

It seems to me that if you take editorial integrity seriously, as some kind of objective process (not that I believe in such a myth), this would be a simple way of gaugeing just how much our response is being manipulated by the skill of the photographer or the skill of the computer and where that line should lie?

(Please note I have no problems with manipulation, staging or otherwise, just as long as you don’t try and hide it from me)

UPDATE:

Tom White who writes the EXCELLENT Photography Lot already posted on this story and wrote the following comment:


I worry about this – as I said to my students when they brought it up; it sends out mixed messages. The AP guidelines on retouching (in a typically vague manner) state that anything above basic colour correction and toning should be labeled clearly as a photo illustration. I think these fall into that category. On the other hand, is using the hipstamatic app really so different than choosing to shoot with a holga or load your camera with high speed black and white film because of the effect it gives? At what point are these things unethical? When do they become culturally acceptable as standard journalistic practice? I do know that if I took raw files from my SLR and hipstamaticised them in photoshop I would be in trouble. Wouldn’t I?

http://photographylot.blogspot.com/2010/11/shooting-from-hipster.html

The problem is that photography is both a science and an art and as such contains an inherent contradiction in the form of the objective/subjective process. With photo manipulation and retouching, there is a huge grey area between definitely acceptable and horrifically unethical. This debate has been going on since the invention of the medium and will no doubt continue without ever getting properly resolved. I could pull up examples of manipulation that have been held up as unethical while at the same time find similar (and more extreme) examples that no one seems to have batted an eyelid at.

My personal view is that when you are presenting work in a documentary and journalistic context and viewers are looking at the style and the process to the detriment of the content then you have failed. I actually do find some of these photos have a great intimacy to them that in cultural terms is enhanced by the use of the iphone app and may perhaps bring the daily lives of the soldiers into the barhopping world of the iphone wielding hipster, stopping them for a second to make them think about the war. However, ultimately I doubt it. Especially as I imagine the more common response is ‘wow, cool app’.

I wish I had a penny for every time I heard someone who I am photographing ask me if I was going to ‘make them look good in photoshop’. This to me is the really worrying thing. If people assume that photos are manipulated then how can they trust what they are seeing? For a journalist, where trust and believability are essential aspects of the work, this is a problem.

In any case, while he’s over there, perhaps Damon could use his iphone to get the same intimate view from the afghan side….

duckrabbit is a production company formed by radio producer/journalist Benjamin Chesterton and photographer David White. We specialize in digital storytelling.

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  • http://www.tomwhitephotography.com Tom White

    I worry about this – as I said to my students when they brought it up; it sends out mixed messages. The AP guidelines on retouching (in a typically vague manner) state that anything above basic colour correction and toning should be labeled clearly as a photo illustration. I think these fall into that category. On the other hand, is using the hipstamatic app really so different than choosing to shoot with a holga or load your camera with high speed black and white film because of the effect it gives? At what point are these things unethical? When do they become culturally acceptable as standard journalistic practice? I do know that if I took raw files from my SLR and hipstamaticised them in photoshop I would be in trouble. Wouldn’t I?

    http://photographylot.blogspot.com/2010/11/shooting-from-hipster.html

    The problem is that photography is both a science and an art and as such contains an inherent contradiction in the form of the objective/subjective process. With photo manipulation and retouching, there is a huge grey area between definitely acceptable and horrifically unethical. This debate has been going on since the invention of the medium and will no doubt continue without ever getting properly resolved. I could pull up examples of manipulation that have been held up as unethical while at the same time find similar (and more extreme) examples that no one seems to have batted an eyelid at.

    My personal view is that when you are presenting work in a documentary and journalistic context and viewers are looking at the style and the process to the detriment of the content then you have failed. I actually do find some of these photos have a great intimacy to them that in cultural terms is enhanced by the use of the iphone app and may perhaps bring the daily lives of the soldiers into the barhopping world of the iphone wielding hipster, stopping them for a second to make them think about the war. However, ultimately I doubt it. Especially as I imagine the more common response is ‘wow, cool app’.

    I wish I had a penny for every time I heard someone who I am photographing ask me if I was going to ‘make them look good in photoshop’. This to me is the really worrying thing. If people assume that photos are manipulated then how can they trust what they are seeing? For a journalist, where trust and believability are essential aspects of the work, this is a problem.

    In any case, while he’s over there, perhaps Damon could use his iphone to get the same intimate view from the afghan side….

  • http://duckrabbit.info/ David White

    Good post. This is an interesting topic. Tom’s points above are great.

    The most telling thing for me about the images, is how intimate they feel. This has little to do with the app, but a lot to do with the photographers mindset when using the iphone..more casual, more relaxed at a guess-and also, importantly, the soldier’s reactions to the phone. Or lack of..he can’t be working with that, right? Relax.

    The app has arguably made the images look better, but mainly just from a crop and border, and added vignetting. Standard stuff really.
    As Tom says, were they taken on a 6×7 with a vignetting lens, that’d be fine. I think this is fine, because the author has not misled us, and, vitally, he has not changed any content in the images. I doubt his ethics would allow him to do that.
    I think also you will find most people who respond to this ( on LENS at least) will be responding to the app and image aesthetic over the content, because many more are interested in photography than are interested in Afghanistan. Unfortunately.
    Tom says “My personal view is that when you are presenting work in a documentary and journalistic context and viewers are looking at the style and the process to the detriment of the content then you have failed.”
    I agree, of course, but in this situation I think viewers are looking at the style and then getting the content, because it is so well done. I see nowt wrong with sucking the viewer in using every aesthetic carrot going if it makes them concentrate and realise the content. Aesthetic in itself and for itself is fine, but not in photojournalism.

    There IS an issue however with people wondering whether what they are seeing is ‘real’ or not…if they even get that far…I’m well up for a stamp like a ©?stamp that just says “OC” for Original Content or somesuch. I don’t know what we can do about that…at a recent portfolio review I reviewed at I was lost…I didn’t know whether what I was seeing was staged, manipulated, altered, real or faked.

    Ben says “Present the same images both with and without the processing and measure the response.”

    Great idea. The problem is that ALL images have processing, one way or another. Photographers have always manipulated their audiences response…There is no ‘true’ rendition of a scene…but I think that if you lined up the images above pre and post processing, the public would go for the post. If you can marry an attractive aesthetic with no content change post shutter, with great content then we’re good, no?

    • http://www.duckrabbit.info/members/duckrabbit/ duckrabbit

      Of course all images are processed. And if we are to be pedantic our screens are calibrated differently and no two printing presses are the same.

      But photography is evolutionary and my argument is that we can no longer just say a picture is just down to the skill of the photographer (of course it wouldn’t exist without them, but then it wouldn’t exist without the technology niether).

      There is no doubt that a process is being applied to these photos. As Aric Mayer writes ‘to me, the images evoke a sentimental sensibility, almost nostalgic. Given the nearly infinite possibilities for digital manipulation, this is a deliberate effect on the part of the app makers.’ That deliberate effect is intended to give meaning.

      Like you I have no problem with this. But the suggestion that the effect on the audience is just the skill of the photographer and not the app is purely a hypothesis. To test it, as suggested, I would play off the camera’s standard JPEG against the app created photos and see how people react.

  • http://www.bvcphoto.com B

    “Present the same images both with and without the processing and measure the response.”

    The problem is that, as I understand, when a photo is processed through Hipstamatic there is no “original” anymore.

    You can either look at this as further breakdown of the trust betwen photographer and viewer, or as a process even closer to that of shooting, say, expired film in a “toy” camera.

    But, as David points out, all images have been edited. Even if you shoot RAW, you can’t actually view the RAW data as an image, it needs to be demoasiced and interpreted… at which point is it technically “edited”. I don’t know how much all that matters, because it seems like we’re really talking about form vs. content.

  • http://duckrabbit.info/ David White

    I think trust is the key. If you can trust the author, whatever they do technically is of minor importance. Blur that line and God knows.

  • http://www.sojournposse.com Sojournposse

    Firstly, James Estrin/Lens is cool for acknowledging the technological evolution of image making. Does one journo come across less serious reporting without a huge camera? Must be. That’s why mobile reporting isn’t taken seriously by broadcasters. It’s an ego thing. However with photojournalism, best do a Sally Soames and not f**k around with fancy lighting and whacky filters. At the end of the day it’s journalism. You can’t set things up or alter truth (although subjective to point of views). For advertising, travel and stock photography it’s a different story. That’s photo illustration. You can’t tell an art director you don’t do Photoshop, that’s just silly.

  • http://www.duckrabbit.info/members/duckrabbit/ duckrabbit

    Check out the Hipstamatic iPhoto app group on Flickr:

    http://www.flickr.com/groups/hipstamatic/pool/

  • http://www.bryanaulick.com/theblog Bryan Aulick

    I’m familiar with several photographers who have the hipstamatic app on their iphones. It’s the default way for how they shoot and share casual and more intentional photos. I’ve felt uneasy about it from the beginning, because even their photos taken for art’s sake are generally of mundane objects, and I’ve often felt that they may not have taken the photo and certainly wouldn’t have shared it if not for the hipstamatic effect. It feels like they’re hiding behind the style, and this style was administered by someone else.

    Applying the hipstamatic effect on the living Afghan war certainly erases the concern over training your iphone on mundane objects, but it still leaves me feeling uneasy. Perhaps my concern comes from two points: one, that the style was a choice of the photographer to make his photos deliberately less subtle (at least in a technical sense), and two, that that style is very much in vogue right now. Which would make my objection mainly aesthetic. I would love to see the original captures without the secondary processing, and I would really love to observe a comparison of both sets of images, as duckrabbit suggested. In fact, the more I think about it, a comparison of these specific images might be the ideal venue for coming to a better understanding of how increasing technology really bears on the art of photo making.

    • http://www.duckrabbit.info/members/duckrabbit/ duckrabbit

      Bryan, thanks for your comment. I’m glad someone got my idea of a comparison!

      • http://duckrabbit.info/ David White

        I’m well up for a comparison, think it’s a great idea and would be fascinating, but as was pointed out earlier, it seems you can’t do that with that app…could easily do it with another set of images though.

        • http://www.duckrabbit.info/members/duckrabbit/ duckrabbit

          Good point.

          I guess we can presume that Damon was working with a normal camera as well … and this was just a choice … as you point out like choosing a camera or different lens.

  • http://www.tomwhitephotography.com Tom White

    In part I think it comes down to intention – what is the reason for using a photographic style, a particular lens, camera, film, or post process? It is true that when I put a wide angle lens or a telephoto lens on my camera I am performing a manipulation. What I choose to include and exclude from the frame is a manipulation. However, there should be – and is often – justifiable content driven reasons for these manipulations. With post production of digital files we can easily (automatically!) create complex visually stylistic images in a very personal and subjective manner. Now, just because we (as journalists) can, doesn’t mean we should, and when we do, it should be because it enhances what we are trying to show, the story we are trying to tell.

    If the style leads us to the content (which I actually think it does in the case of several of these photos) then it is a success. If it detracts from it and even (literally or metaphorically) obscures it , then it is a failure. As Bryan notes, the processed cameraphone photo style is very much in vogue right now. This notion of fashion is also interesting. I was joking recently with a friend about how the desaturated look is so 2009 and this year it’s all about the vivid colour. But will these photos feel dated in a year or five years time? Or will they become iconic representations of 2010 iphone photography? Or both? Will they be included as important documents in a history of the U.S. involvment in Afghanistan? Or ignored as a passing fad in favour of more ‘traditional’ photography. Time will tell.

    I wonder how much of the decision (for Damon) to offer these for publication and (for the editors) to actually publish them comes from the feeling that these photos are not the aesthetic we have come to expect when we open the pages of the newspaper and see professional journalistic photos of U.S. soldiers on patrol. Was there a hope that by using this stylistic device and attracting attention in this way the Afghan war would be looked at with fresh eyes? I also wonder if the reaction and the debate on the ethics of publishing these would be happening if these were images taken by the soldiers themselves with their hipstamatic loaded iphones instead of by a journalist wielding the same piece of kit. What I am interested in here is the question of why is it ethical to use an iphone loaded with the hipstamatic but unethical to take raw files from an slr and apply the same process. Does the camera/device we use – and even who is using it – dictate our judgements in terms of post production? How important is the cultural context to our interpretation of the ‘rules’?

    It seems like the line is well and truly drawn in the sand. And quicksand, at that.

    Incidentally, I saw these today, from 2001: http://www.visuramagazine.com/vm/stephen-crowley-voices-of-afghanistan

  • http://www.ciaraleeming.co.uk ciara

    great comments, all of you. it’s a pandora’s box in which i can see all sides of the argument.
    thanks
    confused of manchester

  • http://duckrabbit.info/ David White

    “What I am interested in here is the question of why is it ethical to use an iphone loaded with the hipstamatic but unethical to take raw files from an slr and apply the same process”

    I’m not sure that you couldn’t do a hipstamatic to your raws…apart from the addition of a border I don’t see much of an issue…and that’s only an issue for certain competitions…in fact, apart from the border, I bet these pics would go down well at WPP. Not that that is necessarily a good thing. For me, integrity of content is key. No messing with that and I’m happy pretty much, but maybe that’s partly because I am able to see through most any aesthetic fiddling.

    I’d like to think the pics were used to try to attract fresh eyes. I think it’s probably worked.

  • iamnotasuperstarphotogrpher

    Reminds me of regulatory chats in the financial sector. As soon as regulation gets written, technology renders it out of date and the innovators move to a new grey area in the rules and regulators say “what do we do now?”

    New York Times might have to have a think – but I am with David on this as “integrity of content is key”.

    Reputation matters and trust is key. I love my iPhone Camera Apps and I still shoot honestly despite not being a professional.

    @tomwhite

    “What I am interested in here is the question of why is it ethical to use an iphone loaded with the hipstamatic but unethical to take raw files from an slr and apply the same process.”

    I think it is because the shooter using Hipsta process has not got a choice to manipulate – the production process is removed from shooter. Adding effects in RAW is a choice to manipulate so it is a process led by the shooter. It is about removing the author from the result.

    Anyway, surely it is not what you use, it is what you see?

    It all goes back to the cult of individual stylistic authorship in PJ’ism being distrusted as a source of journalism – using a Hipsta App is pretty much like using a tilt and shift these days for the iPhone generation and I think attracting the iPhone generation to PJ’ism is a good thing!

    • http://www.duckrabbit.info/members/duckrabbit/ duckrabbit

      Good points … I disagree with this though:

      ‘I think it is because the shooter using Hipsta process has not got a choice to manipulate – the production process is removed from shooter.’

      Its just like setting your photoshop setting BEFORE you take the picture. As I say no problem for me with this, but I think Tom points out a valid contradiction in the NYT editorial policy.

      • iamnotasuperstarphotographer

        Photoshop is bespoke tailoring. Hipsta is just a filter that the shooter has no control over. If waving a iPhone 4 is less intrusive than a massive DSLR in someone’s face then I would go for that.

        All policies are out of date almost the time they are written. A code of conduct is different so agree with you that maybe it is time the NYT had a review of their editorial policy.

        • http://www.duckrabbit.info/members/duckrabbit/ duckrabbit

          But how is Hipsta not bespoke tailoring? How does the shooter have no control over it?

        • http://www.ciaraleeming.co.uk ciara

          meh, not sure. hipstmatic gives you the choice over which settings you use (lens and ‘film’ kind)- ie what the border looks like, the colour range of that film, the level of vignette that setting gives you etc. after that it’s pot luck in the same way as each Holga pic on the same roll of film would be. but there’s a definite degree of ‘tailoring’ (in your words) there before you take the pic imho

          • http://www.duckrabbit.info/members/duckrabbit/ duckrabbit

            indeed

          • iamnotasuperstarphotographer

            …like opening up the lens, or closing it to slow the shutter speed, like using ND filters, tilt and shift choosing a 200m portrait over a 70mm etc, etc.

            All this is done BEFORE the shot. Hipsta then shoots and post processing is like a camera JPEG algorithm spitting out an image. Point is, Hipsta does not do this post. It just does it as process ON camera. Of course one can go into a Hipsta image and add something that was not there in photoshop after but that would be over stepping the mark for me as that is OFF camera.

            We could round in circles without enhancing the level of debate but alway comes back to what you see and not how you shoot (as Gilden quite usefully highlights in his Russia work!).

            NYT times should make this about POST and OFF camera processing versus digital filters being applied ON camera and PRE/DURING processing?

            All they want to do is protect the integrity of the journalism – and quite rightly too!

  • http://reciprocity-failure.blogspot.com Stan B.

    I’m not familiar with much of any of these apps. But offhand, I’d say that shooting in B&W (what was a mainstay for pj’s) did as much, if not more, to “alter reality.” More used to it is all.

    • http://www.duckrabbit.info/members/duckrabbit/ duckrabbit

      Good point Stan … well made.

  • Medium Man

    I was the first person to comment on the NYT Lens story and I still stand behind my criticism (and agree with many of the comments made here).

    Going back to some of the most important visual artists (like Warhol) and thinkers (like Marshal McCluhan), in my opinion these series are an example of where “the medium is the message.” The presentation of the images is also a prime example of Edward Tufte’s discovery of the power of “small multiples.”

    First, why does the NYT have to tell the reader that the images were shot with an iPhone, unless they wanted to draw attention to this fact first and foremost (which they most certainly achieved).

    Secondly, although the use of the Hipstamatic app was identified, there was no mention of how this treatment *could* be considered photo illustration by some people (but not the NYT). In art history, the use of a green tint in portraiture usually is meant to convey anger — are these meant to be “angry” images? Whose anger?

    I’m losing respect for the NYT for not having the courage to open a discussion on these issues. Where is the visual literacy that should be required for a photo editor?

    Anyway, thanks for the good discussion on this topic.

    • http://www.duckrabbit.info/members/duckrabbit/ duckrabbit

      HI Medium Man,

      I agree with you that what is important here is to have a discussion about the boundaries of photography in a news context. If these photos are departure from their editorial policy, and I believe the are, then it would be great to get their thinking on this.

      Isn’t it true that ‘photojournalism’ is more often than not actually ‘news illustration’. If liberties are taken here, it is no more then we come to expect from the written text (news), which in feature journalism often contains an emotional hue.

      THANK for your comment and THANK YOU for kicking off the debate.

  • sneye

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post.
    The question Damon’s excellent images raise is this: what is the role of the photojournalist? Is it merely to illustrate the text or to add a new aspect?
    I would argue that the stylistic choice in this particular case has some potential to manipulate the reader emotionally and is thus unethical when used to illustrate a news story. The means used for achieving this look hardly matter. What matters to me is the de-neutralization of reality in order to engage the reader. There is no argument about the need for content integrity in photojournalistic images. Integrity of intent is almost as fundamental.

  • http://www.tobiaskeycommercial.com Tobias Key

    I’m not sure you can put shooting black and white in the same bracket of manipulation as using a hipstamatic app. For most of its history black and white was the only practical photography medium you could use for photojournalism work. It wasn’t a creative choice it was a technical necessity and the closest the photographer had to ‘reality’.

    Also I think there is a big difference between creative choices that remove colour and those that add colour. Adding colour can seriously change a viewers emotional response to a photo. Like the Paul Simon song Kodachrome ‘makes all the world a sunny day’ . A warm cast or boost in saturation lifts the mood of a photograph. Shooting black and white removes this emotional layer from a photo and all the viewer has to react to is the content of the photograph, so in terms of accurately documenting something you could argue that it is perversely less manipulative with colour taken away.

    Above all black and white has long history so I think we all know the context to put it in. Although in this day of almost all photos being natively shot in colour we have to question more closely why a photographer would deliberately choose to remove colour from his images.

    • http://www.duckrabbit.info/members/duckrabbit/ duckrabbit

      Interesting thoughts … THANS Tobias.

      ‘Shooting black and white removes this emotional layer from a photo’

      But life is emotional and colorful.

  • http://www.tomwhitephotography.com Tom White

    Black & White photography is an interesting comparison. As Tobias notes, it was for a long time impractical, expensive and difficult to shoot (and moreover print) in colour, so photographers used black & White. It was only in the 1970′s that newspapers began to print colour images. Today, shooting with black & white can be seen as a stylistic choice rather than a practical one, but it is a choice that has precedent and context to back it up. I disagree that “Shooting black and white removes [the] emotional layer from a photo”. It is not just colour that provokes emotional response.

    Anyway, Tobias is correct that the history of b&w photography goes a long way toward it’s acceptance today as a representation of reality. Part of what I think is interesting about the hipstamatic iphone process in journalism is that it is for many people a becoming culturally acceptable representational form and has been used in journalism before.

    The New York Times has long had a history of using photographs that are not always the standard ‘straight shot’ (check out this excellent slideshow by the very same Damon Winter – http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2008/09/02/nyregion/winterlens/index.html?ref=damon_winter). And are usually very clear on the process used to make the image. The unusual thing here is that photographs using what could be regarded as an alternative process appeared on the front page, with the acknowledgment on how the effect was achieved appearing not directly below in the caption as would be expected. However, a link to the lens blog with the tag ‘A discussion on how the photographs were taken’ is provided.

    The very fact that these images were shot on an iphone using this app for effect are important issues and go straight to the heart of why it may be regarded as acceptable ethically (while the same process applied to raws from an slr may not). I’m glad Medium Man brought in Marshal McCluhan as this is a great example of his ‘medium is the message’ concept. In a way, what we are debating is not ethical practice, but cultural context and subjective appreciation, the blurry boundary between journalism and art, the idea of a representational ‘norm’ and how far one can deviate from that and still claim the truth.

  • http://www.tomwhitephotography.com Tom White

    Or, as Brion Gysin might (and did) say back in the 80′s..

    “All this technological rubbish that has been spewing up from video to polaroid to newly-dubbed “Electroworks” does sell the electronic equipment involved to an over-affluent society of idle housewives who need an “outlet” in programmed “creativity”, a way of burning up the bread of the starving Third World and the Fourth and the Fifth on an electric toaster. All this decorative garbage they turn out is what they can pick and choose from as they rollerskate through the air-conditioned supermarket of the arts. It’s like painting with numbers and it should stop at the kindergarten. It’s not that these things make creation too easy – they have nothing to do with creativity. This is the ugly flab on a fatcat society that burns up everybody else’s calories of psychic energy and leaves the whole world impoverished, not enriched.”

  • Medium Man

    Some reactions from other sites about the original story:

    1. Anonymous
    November 23rd, 2010 at 3:48 am
    “I can guarantee you, nothing I saw in my 16 months in Iraq looked like the view through a Lomo or Holga camera. The reality of war isn’t meant to be vintage colors and soft edges.”

    2. Anonymous
    November 23rd, 2010 at 3:55 am
    “That pisses me off a little. Way to show it as it is, stupid photographers.”

    They’re also discussing this topic at the American Copy Editors Society:

    http://apple.copydesk.org/2010/11/22/an-exercise-in-immediacy-or-just-a-gimmick/

    • http://duckrabbit.info/ David White

      Thanks. What’s interesting to me in the copy editors link is the colour repro of the front of the NYT…I hadn’t seen that front page before..it looks like they have changed the colour/tone from Green to tan/brown. Very different. That is interesting if true. Maybe that has something to do with the green/anger thing you wrote about earlier? They would surely never change the colours of ‘regular’ news images, did they feel they could with these because they have already been ‘altered’?

      • http://www.tomwhitephotography.com Tom White

        That repro is inaccurate – in the newsprint versionn they are actually pretty green. I have it in front of me. Well, in a pile papers on my office floor to be precise…

        • http://duckrabbit.info/ David White

          Thanks Tom. That’s good to know.

  • http://www.leegillen.com Lee

    You said, “Please note I have no problems with manipulation, staging or otherwise, just as long as you don’t try and hide it from me.” I agree, and am glad that the NY Times did not hide their manipulation by stating clearly in the article at several times that it was an iPhone app, “The Hipstamatic app forced him to wait about 10 seconds between photos, so each one had to count.”

    I would not be upset with Time Magazine editing OJ Simpson’s photograph if only they had a caption saying that they had done so. It’s the transparency that brings trust and understanding. But it is not only relevant in the Photoshop era we are in. The photographer could have easily used ‘normal’ photographic techniques like higher shutter speed, lower ISO, wider aperture, etc to make the photo of OJ darker. I think all this information should be transparent as well.

    • http://www.duckrabbit.info/members/duckrabbit/ duckrabbit

      Well said Lee,

  • Medium Man

    I agree with Lee as well. I think what this whole episode boils down to is that we (photographers and journalists and the public at large) still have not come to terms with the underlying philosophical debate that has always existed in photography: how much, if ever, photography “represents” or “accurately describes” a reality. I say “a reality” because I fundamentally dismiss any notion that there is one, “true,” “objective” reality that we all somehow share.

    This same debate in physics that makes many people so uneasy and/or refusing to accept from the quantum physics revolution of the 20th century: there is no such thing as “one reality,” there never has been and never will be.

    While photography can describe, it’s all the photographer’s choice in how to describe…

  • http://www.eliphoto.com Eli Reichman

    Those who are familiar with Damon Winter’s complete body of work understand that he is an incredibly gifted photographer. Therefore; I view these pieces as an exception to his daily work. Perhaps these snapshots provide Winter’s access to establish a more intimate relationship with his subjects, so when the more difficult pictures are to be made – the barriers that would normally exist have been broken down.

    Conversely, that the NY Times chose to publish these is somewhat alarming as the images do not convey the horrors of war, but in a warped manner, almost beautify it.

    For those not familiar with one of the great war photographers of all time, I recommend the book, “Compassionate Photographer” a tribute to the life’s work of Larry Burrows. Simply put, war is gut wrenching and life altering. Burrows photographs depict the horrors as completely as any I’ve ever seen.

    Bob Gilka (the longtime N.G.S. Dir. of Photo) summed it up best, “great photographs are measured by how they stand up to the test of time.” I believe Winter’s “real photographs” will measure up as well.

  • Kida

    I agree with with mostly all the criticisms regarding this work. I think all the issue of retouching/modify/whatelse is quite related to individual esthetic point of view. In the begining it was darkroom, later photoshop and now we have apps. And, moreover, the iconization of brand marks, which are entering so deeply in our daily life, and we, as recipients/consumers, accept(consciously or unconsciously)and normalize this fact. I always looked at manipulation only as a functional tool in order to strength the message and the content of the images. The esthetic side is for sure important but cannot get “the main role” of the image. I see these images very similar to many other pjs reportages. I mean, that ones in which it’s very clear that kind of message “hi, i’m in a war zone(it means i’m cool) and, guess what, i’m shooting pictures with an iphone!”. Well, great you if these pictures would tell us something different, and i would accept even the manipulation, if it was functional to the message and not to tell us how much cool you are. And i see that NYT basically, publishing this story and promoting this fact of the iphone, is confirming the idea that, no matter what is happening right there, that you, exactly you, you reader of NYT in the subway with an iphone in your pocket, you feel closer to the photographer, comfortable with the esthetic (which someone else decided) and you feel more safe in your own little warm muffled world. But, you’ll never feel close to the content. And for sure, you’ll never take a political stand or you’ll never take a step forward such as “oh, maybe it’s better to search for other informations regarding this, because it’s important firstly for myself and for..etcc”.
    My personal opinion is that if pjism had a social role, and now is almost lost, was exactly to denounce social issues in order to give to the people the choice to take a stand or not. It was a socio-political tool in the hand of photographers. Yeah, the world is changed and the media behind it, but personally i’m not so comfortable with the idea of photographers as “third eye within a struggle”. That doesn’t mean that we could get images for everything. But, how could we discuss about ethic in photography while “Nobel prize grant” is given to a photographer (great one, i really believe), who overpass (i think) the line. I think that every photographers should have his own ethic, and it must be defended and he must be proud to shot with his own ethic. Someone said “If there ‘something instructive in the actual world chaos, is certainly this one: that few ideas are dangerous as the belief that all means are permitted according to a desirable purpose”. The more we pass the line the more the line will be overpassed by someone else. Especially in this pj system.
    Well..obviously its not the case of this work, but i feel very distant from it. It doesn’t give me more than what i already saw. It doesn’t give more energy to be more active, in terms of political stand or in deepen the content by myself. On the contrary, the idea that if there was something strong in that images, well ..that thing has been lost with the “presence” of the iphone(of course stocked in my head!) and with the NYT promotion of this fact. There was no reason to say that, and the fact of underline it has weakened the message even more. From all of this story, at the end what’s coming out? How sensitive has been the photographer in choosing the right tool to represent very sensitive moments of the soldiers?…
    thanks..

    • http://www.duckrabbit.info/members/duckrabbit/ duckrabbit

      Thanks for the comment … interesting points