Assignment 1 – Chosen Text

Assignment one required us to choose a text from a selection, and apply it to our research and final project. I chose to use ‘The Pixelated Press’ by Fred Ritchin. The text described how the press can and have manipulated images to make them more fitting to an article, or to look more aesthetically pleasing. A good example of this, which is given in the book, is an image of the pyramids in Egypt, where the original image was landscape and had the pyramids in the background, with a trail of camels in the foreground. This image was required for a cover of a National Geographic magazine, and so the image was adjusted so the pyramids were closer together so that they’d both fit on the cover of the magazine when it was printed in portrait.

Also, the main article was about how an image of Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman was created for a separate article about a film they both starred in, called “Rain Men”. The image was over a double page spread and showed the two actors laughing, as if just enjoying each others company. But the image was actually created with two separate images of the actors, who were actually in different parts of the world (One in Hawaii and the other in New York). Ritchin goes on to discuss the credibility of images in magazines and news articles, and says “Just as troubling was my realization that the Hoffman-Cruise image, which I viewed as having been published to help provide an essential understanding of the actors, was primarily illustrating and affirming the ideas of the writers and the preconceptions of editors”.

So he is saying that once an image is heavily manipulated or constructed by an editor, does it change the original message of the photograph and in the case of the Hoffman-Cruise image, can it be seen as showing the true character of the subject or just an opinion of the person that created it. Can this image, that’s meant to accompany an article about the relationship between the two actors, be taken as the truth if the actors weren’t even together and shows a false relationship between the two.

However not all manipulated images are telling false stories, as I was saying about the pyramids image which was only adjusted to fit a cover and was described by the editor as “not as falsification but merely the establishment of a new point of view by the retrospective positioning of the photographer”. But does this mean that the viewer of the magazine doesn’t have the right to question the authenticity of the image simply because there are only minor adjustments?

To link this to my project, I decided i had two choices. To either create an image that was not obviously manipulated, and try to make the viewer believe it’s something that it’s not, or to make the manipulation obvious and make the viewer question whether this was a photograph or not. I have been experimenting with time-lapse images recently, and I thought maybe if I created looping .gifs of time lapsed scenes, this could count as making someone believe an image is something that it’s not. The image would look like a still image, but it would technically be a video and when mounted in a digital photobook it would look like a collection of standard images.

My second idea was to create tilt-shifted images of scenes in Coventry. Tilt shift is when an image’s depth of field is manipulated post production, to create the sense of the scene being a model. An example of this is the work by Richard Silver which can be found here:

I’m going to experiment with both of these methods and see which one gives the best results, and which can create an argument that I can link to the text.


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