It’s important to understand that there is not just a single fraudulent Reuters photograph, nor even only one kind of fraudulent photograph. There are in fact dozens of photographs whose authenticity has been questioned, and they fall into four distinct categories.
The four types of photographic fraud perpetrated by Reuters photographers and editors are:
1. Digitally manipulating images after the photographs have been taken.
2. Photographing scenes staged by Hezbollah and presenting the images as if they were of authentic spontaneous news events.
3. Photographers themselves staging scenes or moving objects, and presenting photos of the set-ups as if they were naturally occurring.
4. Giving false or misleading captions to otherwise real photos that were taken at a different time or place. —Reuters Commits Four Types of Fraud (zombietime)
Because I don’t follow the political blogs, this subject kind of crept up on me.
Warning — some of the photos on the page are disturbing, but it’s precisely the emotional impact of the photos that makes the issues of digitally altered and staged photos so important.
Note the two different shots of the same Lebanese woman lamenting the loss of her home in the immediate aftermath of attacks two weeks apart. It’s possible that someone misidentified the photo, or that an entrepreneurial freelancer misrepresented the facts to make an additional sale. But the New York Times sequence that in one picture shows a dust-free young man clutching his hat under his arm, with no visible injuries, lying in such a manner that he appears to be pinned under a small metal pole, looks very interesting when contrasted with other images from the same sequence, showing what looks like the same man wearing his cap on his head, assisting with the rescue efforts.
Then there is “The Passion of the Toys,” the dismissive title critics have given to a series of photos showing some remarkably undamaged and dust-free toys in the foreground of photos that show the aftermath of military attacks. A similiarly dramatic photo shows a mannequin wearing a wedding dress in the midst of the destruction.
The author writes, “Now, of course there is a real war going on, and there is real damage, and authentically tragic scenes. No one is denying that. So, with all the actual honest footage of unstaged war imagery floating around, why is Reuters resorting to supplementing its coverage with obviously fake photos?”
Here’s an interesting quote, credited to a comment posted on the conservative blog Little Green Footballs:
Every time, if an Israeli is hurt, it was a “rocket” that did it; if a Lebanese/Hizb is hurt, “Israel” did it. Humans hurt Lebanese, but inanimate objects hurt Israelis, according to Reuters.
I didn’t check the Reuters captions myself, but this is a good example of where bias can creep in. A similar controversy erupted in the aftermath of the Katrina disaster, when photo captions from one news agency described black people as looting, while a different news agency described a different scene with subjects who are not black (it looked like a white man and a Hispanic woman) as having taking food that they found. (See “You Say ‘Looting,’ I Say ‘Finding’“