Saving Photojournalistic Credibility


General Photography

Fred Ritchin: “Unfortunately in the last twenty-five years we have done very little to establish and publicize guidelines, and now photojournalism is devolving into yet another medium perceived as intending to shock, titillate, sell, distort. My sense is that if we are truly serious about preserving at least some of its credibility […] we need to take strong steps. I am still of the opinion, as I expressed in the After Photography book last year, that a special frame placed around the photograph (perhaps a thicker one) indicating that a photograph is “non-fiction” - meaning that it is subjective, interpretive, but the image itself has NOT been manipulated beyond accepted darkroom techniques such as modest burning and dodging - would be helpful.”

I don’t think that this will actually work, because first, it will be next to impossible to properly define what “beyond accepted darkroom techniques such as modest burning and dodging” means - exactly how much dodging and burning will one accept? How can that be clearly defined?

And second, it will only take a scandal or two - with a photo in such a frame turning out to be fabricated - for the whole procedure to lose all credibility itself.

Since I agree with the last sentence in that post (“It is difficult to conceive of democracies surviving without credible witnesses.”) I think there will be no way around talking about how images work and how they are produced instead of trying to cling to something that has already been shown to be basically an illusion.