Adobe’s Photoshop is the most used photo-editing software used today, with estimates being around 8mil users. Especially with today’s CC version, Photoshop is staggeringly powerful being able to edit everything and nothing; changing a photo in its entirety up to the state that what got taken in the camera is unrecognizable once the post processing has been completed. Within the fashion industry this is standard procedure, modifying bodies to fit that countries beauty standards, which triggered the entire concept of body-shaming; which I aren’t going get into any further.
However this leads into the question of whether or not using photoshop breaks the rules of ethical journalism when one is shooting street or documentary photography. I am using these two examples, as well as photojournalism (obviously) as in my opinion these three genres of photography especially rely on honesty and truth. The most famous example which started the discussion throughout the photography world was Steve McCurry; one of the world’s most famous documentary photographerswho decided to majorly photoshop various shots. So is this ethical?
The answer to this is oh so complicated, depending who you ask, there is a entire scale of answers. Yet, if you ask me, and various photo agencies including NPAA and many more, these practices are deeply unethical. Yet according to McCurry, this practice isn’t unethical because he is a “visual storyteller” and not a documentary photographer, however, there is a fine line between real storytelling and documentary.
Using Photoshop, one can deceive, wind and completely change the storyline of a single shot or even an entire series. Photography is meant to be, the truth, (a photo tells more than a thousand words) yet when people take a shot, then decide to make it look pretty; can one call oneself a photographer anymore, or rather a con artist. This idea might seem extreme however, if you sell a photo as a real, documentary, real world series and it has been edited and photoshopped through and through; one simply isn’t telling the truth.
Is this an opinioned post? Clearly, however I recon that lots of people might agree with this idea. Photoshop isn’t highly thought of, throughout various photographic disciplines, yet I think that this software is especially deadly for photojournalism and documentary. What happens, if more and more scandals show up; it breaks to mainstream media will anybody ever believe the photos taken in crisis areas? Will people ever be shocked or believe the photo of that refugee child on a beach?
This is the true risk. Photojournalism needs to stay away from Photoshop and clearly distance oneself from those scandals. If not, will photojournalists ever be believed again?