a photograph never lies …

Photo of new MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan. In retouched image (left) to meet government standards

Toronto. As a kid  some 70+ years ago, this was a common bromide, “a photograph never lies”.  As I grew older and learned to develop my own prints, I learned that photographs could and did lie!  Most negatives were simply retouched to change the contrast, but in some cases negatives too could be altered. And prints were an obvious target in the darkroom.

I have a large print of my maternal grand parents and mentioned one day that my grandfather had dressed up in his suit for the photo. Dad laughed. He said when the photo was taken, my grandfather was in overalls! The photographer changed the overalls to a suit. When the print was made and coloured, the photographer even added a gold chain as if my grandfather used or owned a pocket watch!

When I was older, I found I could add people to a print in the darkroom sometimes by double exposure and sometimes by carefully adding to the print and rephotographing. Never lies? Indeed!

Modern digital photos are far easier to retouch and fake  Heads from one photo can be added to another using photoshop after digitizing the two prints. Care makes it difficult to see the changes. The site, “Photo Tampering Throughout History“,  gives you an idea of how manipulation can occur and which popular images were modified to deceive the viewer or enhance the subject. While the site no longer verifies photographs, its gallery remains. You can check out photographs by year, and by type of manipulation.

Legitimate newspapers, TV stations, etc.  limit any digital corrections to exposure/contrast. Perhaps that is why we see so many tilted buildings on TV these days …

George Dunbar was kind enough to send me this link. He says, “This web site will be of interest to those who believe ‘a photograph never lies’. The site contains dozens of examples to prove the opposite. The Canadian House of Commons is included in the category of altered images.” Above, I show an example provided by George from the site.

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