Photographers Creating Drama

 Click here on the word  Photographers and watch the video (wait a moment for it to begin). You can see how photographers can become part of the story and help construct images. The media manipulation is part of ethnopolitical conflicts and the extent to which they are intensified by improper coverage of the story. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is intense and complex and deserving of proper treatment.

  I’ve seen this myself in Israel on more than one occasion where photographer’s, reporters, and medical personnel show up before the protesters to get “ready” for the event. What gets reported in the news or on television, if it makes it that far, is more dramatic than what actually occurred.

Manipulated photographs gain their credibility by being attached to real photographs or real events. Adages about how a picture is worth 1000 words or how photographs never lie resonate with the public’s belief that pictures are real and tell the truth. The pressure for the public to believe the photograph is powerful so people view images and work hard to find them truthful.

It’s also the case that manipulated photographs make for a gray area of reality. The photograph is of course “of” something and this contributes increasingly to the sense of reality a photograph carries with it. Technology and computerized images are now so sophisticated that the fake picture can be better than a real one. It is so easy to simply “improve” the photograph by sharpening the colors, increasing the contrast, or cropping without encountering any moral questions about the new reality the photographer is creating.

Compare it to writing. If you observe an event or listen to an interaction and then go write a story using those instances, it is not much different than what a photographer does when he or she approaches a subject and constructs a photographic image. Maybe we should begin to think about photography as fictional and begin the process of teaching people to treat it as a story or narrative that has been constructed. Writers exceed the boundaries of truth and are called creative and interesting, why not the same for news photographs. The photographs from the news perspective are supposed to be reporting some semblance of the truth. If the photograph is manipulated or staged in any way it violates the truth to some degree.

I think the manipulation in this video is some of the worst kind because the photographers are going out of their way to replicate a dramatic and violent reality in order to increase the sense of excitement around the photograph. No one is benefiting from this.


About Donald Ellis

Professor Emeritus at the University of Hartford.

Posted on November 22, 2011, in Israel, Media and politics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. The impact of both real and virtual framing that comes with war-time photojournalists should never be overlooked. Indeed, during the first Intifada, the Israeli military was among the first to restrict journalist access to conflict zones by connecting access to imbedded status. The result was that most images from the conflict offered the perspective of Palestinian rocks coming toward the lens, as opposed to that of Israeli bullets, thereby literally and figuratively framing the conflict from the Israeli military standpoint. However, it is also dangerous to make too much of the particular scenario shown in this clip. The larger reality is that the Israeli military closes journalist access to areas prior, during, and sometimes after military action, thereby denying journalist access to documentation — the Gaza war may have been the most egregious of such examples, but many less extreme examples exist. So, the clip shown here places Palestinians in the role of reality creator and, as such, also carries with it an implicit suggestion (intentional or not) that the threat to Palestinians by Israeli military action has been “constructed” by the Palestinians, in cooperation with sympathetic journalists, to be larger than it is. Of course, that particular suggestion is offensive to those who understand the realities of the region.

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