22.3.14

Photojournalism: Accurate Portrayal of Reality VS Creative Art?



Last week, D and I dropped by The World Press Photo 2013 exhibition at Raffles Hotel. Described by the organisers as the most popular traveling photo event in the world, the photography competition aims to “inspire understanding of the world through quality photojournalism”.

We were blown away by many of the images so we came home and looked at some of the winners from previous years. During our browsing, we found that the exhibition manages to inspire a huge amount of controversy too.

Take a look at the winning photo of the year from 2013 by Paul Hansen which features in the exhibition (see above)

It shows a group of men carrying the bodies of two dead children through a street in Gaza city. They are being taken to a mosque for the burial ceremony whilst their father’s body is carried behind on a stretcher. 

This photo caused an unprecedented amount of debate about whether Hansen over did it on the post-processing front.  Various articles with titles like “How the 2013 World Press Photo of the Year was faked with Photoshop” went viral.

The controversy forced World Press Photo to launch an investigation using forensic imagining experts. 
They compared raw files with submitted JPEG files to see whether pixels had been moved. The final conclusion was that while all the pixels were in the same place, the image had undergone “a fair amount of post-production”. The most likely technique used by Hansen was a “dodge and burn” technique to lighten some areas of the image and darken others thus giving an HDR-like quality.

World Press Photo published clarifications to the previous claims about faking the damage had already been done. The integrity of photojournalism was being called into question (again)

These type of claims aim to whip up controversy abut how much we can trust images. The question I would ask is "who cares?". Ultimately it is up to the photographer to decide whether they are looking to present an accurate portrayal of reality or a piece of creative art. I guess for us we need to understand if such a picture inspires understanding of the world through quality photojournalism. It did for me.

Check out the exhibition here -> http://www.worldpressphoto.asia