Photo Manipulation

Topics: Photography, Dorothea Lange, Photograph Pages: 3 (1157 words) Published: September 23, 2013
Jordan Ferris
"While photographs may not lie, liars may photograph". This line, stated by Lewis Hine, a famous photographer from the late 19th to mid 20th century, is starting to become a phrase that really has some meaning (McClymer, 2011). It was once thought that a photograph told the complete truth. However, in more recent times with the technology of the camera, photographers now have the option to not only stage pictures, but to also go back and retouch them once they are already taken. These two forms of photo manipulation are causing a serious ethical dilemma in the photojournalism world. “Migrant Mother”, a photograph of down and out mom Florence Thompson, taken by photographer Dorothea Lange, is a captivating photo, that at first glance has a major impact on viewers, but looking deeper into it, we can see prominent forms of manipulation going on.

Staging a photograph is the act of setting up a scene in order to create a certain essence to the picture. While photojournalists should take pictures unplanned, many are starting to take staged photographs, and it is becoming a serious ethical dilemma. As viewers of photojournalists’ work, we want to see the truth. We want to see real life accounts of what is going on in the world. Pictures are supposed to be worth a thousand words, but if photographs continue to be staged as they are being staged now, we will need words to accurately know what is going on. Dorothea Lange’s photograph of “Migrant Mother” was a somewhat accurate depiction of what was happening at the time. However, the picture that was so publicized was not necessarily “real life”. The “cover shot” we see that Lange took was much less impactful than the photograph that she took staged of the family. So why stage photos? In this case, Lange wanted to show how dramatic and hard times were for people in the depression and drought. Staging the photo made this happen, even if it omitted some of the real life to it. For example, Thompson’s...

References: 10 News photos that took retouching too far. (2009). Retrieved September 11, 2012, from
Editors Note, n.d. Retrieved September 11, 2013, from
Is Photo Retouching Ethical In Visual Journalism? (2013). Retrieved September 11, 2011, from
McClymer, John. (2010, July 10). Using Lewis Hine 's Child Labor Photographs. The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era Online. Retrieved September 11, 2013, from
Myers, Steven. (2011, May 13). Photographers debate what should replace staged photo opps now that White House is ending the practice. Poynter. Retrieved September 11, 2013, from
Tompkins, Al. (2011, May 4). Reuters, AP photojournalists describe staging of Obama photo. Poynter. Retrieved September 11, 2013, from
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