Photo Fakery + Album Manipulation

The following piece from Dino A. Brugioni’s Photo Fakery: The History and Techniques of Photographic Deception and Manipulation puts into words perfectly what I have visually been aspiring to do. The familiar saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is a common phrase thrown about in todays society as “we all have a tendency to accept all photographs as being true representations of what they depict” (Brugioni, D. 1999). As a photojournalist it is expected of me to show nothing but the truth yet as a documentary photographer whilst I feel the same is expected of you, there is however more scope for artistic flare. Funny what the connotations of a simple describing word of ones “profession” can enable or disable you to do, giving you free reign or binding you to ideologies.

Arthur C. Lundahl, the first director of the Central Intelligence Agency’s National Photographic Interpretation Center, compared the invention of photography to the invention of gunpowder. He lectured that it was the most important tool for recording and communicating information, and a powerful and factual way of viewing and understanding the world. It was also the most literary of all the graphics arts. Its universal appeal allowed it to convey ideas across language barriers more quickly and concisely than the written or printed word. But Lundahl always cautioned that any photo that has been tampered with, when discovered, could have the impact of exploding gunpowder.

The term “fake” is from the German word fegen, to “furbish” or “clean up.” “Photo faker” conjures up the concept of a craftsperson creating an image that will deceive an innocent or ignorant viewer, a person who can create a complex web of deceit. Nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone who has worked in a photo lab knows that many laboratory technicians, and now those in the digital environment as well, will experiment with various techniques of photo fakery.

It has been estimated that approximately 38,082,191 photos are taken in the United States each day. Of these, fewer than 3 percent are reproduced and fewer than 1 percent enlarged. The Rochester Institute of Technology estimates that about one in ten colour photos in print have been altered, indicating that something has been added, deleted, or removed. Every indication is that these percentages will grow as newspapers, magazines, journals, and advertising organizations purchase new equipment to manipulate photos electronically.

The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” implied that the information contained in a photograph was inviolable. Photography has been seen as a medium of truth and unassailable accuracy and has been universally accepted as one of the most important means of communication. The potential of any medium depends on its credibility. Photography is graphically apparent and readily relatable and is taken prima facie as being the truth in court cases. Oliver Wendell Holmes, an amateur photographer and photo interpreter, stated that a photo serves as a “mirror with a memory.” We all have a tendency to accept all photographs as being true representations of what they depict. The adages “The camera never lies” or that the camera “reproduces reality” or “seeing is believing” add additionally believability to the photo – that what is shown was recored truthfully and faithfully. Credibility is the photojournalist’s most valuable asset.

Brugioni, D (1999). Photo Fakery. United States: Brassey’s. p3-4.

After researching Morrissey’s ‘synthetic photo albums’ and exploring the idea of imposing yourself into someone else’s life whilst representing that as the real (and how society finds this uncomfortable and hard to deal with due to our subconscious ideologies) I have begun to consider the ‘wedding album’. Similar to a family album, a wedding album is a book of photos that are precious to a select few people and hold many memories and meanings to those involved. I want to distort this and create my own “wedding album” by defacing loving images of couples “perfect day” by manipulating myself into the images thus intruding upon this personal and sacred memory. Below are some preliminary edits to show my idea – they are by no means perfect (far from it!) but a rough idea of the route I’m headed…

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 18.32.57



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Filed under Reflections on the Real

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