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Essay Research Notes

Essay Title

John Szarkowski (1966) claims that profit minded early commercial photographers consolidated the public belief that ” the camera never lies”. with particular reference to modern commercial photographic practice , Discuss how the public has an on going appetite for photographic “proof” but desires the proof to be ‘better than the real thing’.



Profit Minded Early Photographers – Who were they?

Ansel Adams –  worked for time magazine, IBM &  AT&T

Irving Penn – A trained artist,  Irving Penn   photographed for “Vogue” in the 1940s and went on to become an accomplished and versatile image-maker.

Edward Steichenpioneer in pictorialism before moving on to fashion photography

Richard Avedon worked for harpars bazzar, vogue, life magazine

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How the public has an on going appetite for photographic “proof” but desires the proof to be ‘better than the real thing’.

Social media sites widely and easily  acessable . Images are able to be uploaded and shared amongst the general public within seconds. (Twitter, Facebook, Weibo)

The Bbc Documentary 2013- Moments in time  explores how photography has changed in the age of smartphones & social media. referring to the 2013 helicopter crash in London’s Vauxhall. It tells the story of how 2 residents of  found themselves at the heart of one of 2013’s first biggest news storys. The men didn’t know each other, but their instincts were the same – – to take out their phone and to take a video / picture – ” just to show what had happened”

one of these residents – Craig Jenner  immediately  uploaded the image to twitter


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What this tells us is that in the worst situations our instinct is now to record it, to look at, it to capture it, rather than to turn away.

In a report released earlier this year  by TomiAhonen . it is pointed out that there are 5.2 Billion mobile phones on the planet for a population of 4.3 Billion users.  83% of all phones have cameras. The survey cites that 90% of all people who take pictures have only done so on a camera phone. – Ahonen, Tomi . (2013). The Annual Mobile Industry Numbers and Stats Blog – Yep, this year we will hit the Mobile Moment. Available: Last accessed 30,12,2013.

In a study conducted by HP titled ‘ How and why people use camera phones ‘ it is noted that  in their initial interviews subjects reported that they captured photos on average several times per week,   based on actual  numbers they found that the rate of photocapture was the equivelent if about 8 photographs a week or 34 a month. – Tim Kindberg, Mirjana Spasojevic, Rowanne Fleck 1 , Abigail Sellen. (2004). How and Why People Use Camera Phones. Available: Last accessed 30,12,2013.

Majority of mobile Phones have a camera built in. there are numerous  applications  and softwares widely available providing various filters,to improve/ enhance the final Image. –

Instagram: various photo-editing filters / effects providing the ability to share Polaroid-style photos between friends and followers.

Repix: lets you easily use brushes to add effects to your photos and change the way they look completely, turning them into everything from oil paintings to movie posters

Photography develops in tandem with one of the most characteristic of modern activities: Tourism. large numbers of people regularly travel out of their habitual environments for short periods of time. It seems positively unnatural to travel for pleasure without taking a  camera along. Photographs will offer indisputable evidence that the trip was made.  – Sontag, S (27 Sep 1979). On Photography. London: penguin. In Plato’s cave p9.

Despite having this evidence there is still an ongoing urge to make the images look better with Phone apps providing software such as Facetune. which claims to be perfect for cleaning up those holiday snaps and lets you apply effects to any pictures to give blemish free skin and banish those bags under your eyes.

Nowadays it is easier to manipulate  and distort an image more than ever, in general the public are aware that it is done an by what means it is done.

Photo Editing tutorials have become widely available,  you tube. Kelby training /

computer manipulated and stimulated imagery appears to threaten the truth status of photography even though that has already been undermined by decades of semiotic analysis. –  Wells, Liz (2004). Photography: A Critical Introduction. 3rd ed. Oxon: Routledge. p329.

Viral time lapse video showing one woman’s dramatic transformation aided by the use of digital editing software.


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Full Video:

Burger Comparisim. Adveritsment Vs TheReal Thing



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Reality Vs Advertisments


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In an online blog review, beuaty blogger courtney Mirenzi  demonstrates how makeup advertisments can be misleading and states “The camera doesn’t lie. Even with naturally good lashes, the best eyelash curler and a high end mascara, my lashes certainly did not look like the ones in the Maybelline’s ad.” – Mirenzi, Courtney . (2013). Advertising vs Reality: Maybe She’s Born With It, Maybe It’s Lash Inserts. Available: Last accessed 31,12,2013.



Retouching has become so mainstream today that almost every celebrity has their own freelance retoucher to perfect images of them. Publicists demand this, and what used to be a rarity has become common place among Hollywood elites. –

One theory about retouching in advertisements is that it’s done to create an aspirational concept of beauty that inspires women to buy more products –

Image editing taken too far:

Ralph Lauren

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When photography was first invented, its overwhelming power came from the fact that it recorded nature more realistically than any other art form had ever done before. Because of this, people trusted it and believed it portrayed “reality” and “truth”.

But, just as story telling could portray the “truth” with an accurate accounting of the facts, it could just as easily become fiction. Fake and manipulated photographs – visual fiction – began circulating not long after the invention of photography.

With the invention of motion pictures, and certainly television, the public came to know that not every picture they saw was necessarily factual in its depiction of reality.

Many people think that the manipulation of images started with the invention of Photoshop, but there have been fake photographs since the invention of photography.

photographic composites of different images were created by commercial photographic studios to bring family members together into one picture when they were not together in reality for the portrait session –


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Notice that the three people on the left in the image appear to be floating in mid air in this photographic portrait of the Daquilla family from the early 20th century by A. Werner and Sons in New York.

They were apparently cut out of other photos and pasted on top of a photo of the woman at right and re-photographed in a composite image.

what is a photograph?? 

In a world dominated by visual images the photograph has become almost invisible, we take photographs, look at them endlessly, and carry them around with us. they are the most common of objects that change hands on a daily basis.  – Clarke, Graham (1997). The Photograph. United States: Oxford University Press Inc, New York. P11.

Pure photography postulated an ideal image which transcended the everyday world. it questioned the view of photography as a literal act of recording , seeing this as limited, but nevertheless insisted on the photograph being based on the real thing seen, not imagined  – Clarke, Graham (1997). The Photograph. United States: Oxford University Press Inc, New York. P187

according to Scott Kelby  in his book Professional portrait retouching techniques for photographers using photoshop.  you can have a one – on- one conversation with someone for a solid hour, take a quick portrait of them, and when you open their image, every flaw, every blemish and every little imperfection you missed out in your conversation may as well have a big red circle around it and a big arrow pointing at it. our now when re-touching people is to take out the flat, unflattering two dimensional still image of them where every flaw gets magnified and make them look as good sat they did when they are standing right in front of us – Kelby, Scott (2011). Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques For Photographers Using Photoshop. Unknown: New Riders. Why we retouch XV.

“…images are often able to remind participants of things not usually remembered because they lack merit or are considered unimportant at that time—the kind of mundane aspects of life you would not usually choose to capture. [Harper et al.] found that surprise in seeing the ‘mundane’ led people to reflect on, and even consider changing, their life.”

 –  citatation– Fleck and Fitzpatrick (2009, p. 1033)   Harvard reference – Fleck, R., & Fitzpatrick, G. (2009). Teachers’ and tutors’ social reflection around SenseCam images. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies,67(12), 1024–1036.

while the camera deals with recording factual things and events that form the subject of the photograph, it only produces a perceived reality that is remembered after the thing or event has passed. While people believe that photographs do not lie, this is an illusion caused by the mistaken belief that the subject and the picture of the subject is the same thing. One is reminded of the written inscription on the famous painting of a “pipe” by the Cubist painter Rene Magritte that refutes what we believe we are seeing by saying “This is not a pipe.” Indeed it is a painting of a pipe and not a real pipe in the same way that a photograph of a subject is both an artifact and a record of what the photographer captured with his camera from nature. Because we see reality in different ways, we must understand that we are looking at different truths rather than the truth and that, therefore, all photographs lie in one way or another.” – Szarkowski (1966, p.12)  harvard ref – Szarkowski, J. (1966). The Photographer’s Eye. New York: Museum of Modern Art

The difference between photograph and reality is reflected in other sayings, such as “the camera adds 10 pounds” or “he/she is not photogenic”. How can one photograph of a person make them look good and another, taken a few seconds later, make them look bad? Perhaps our “frozen appearance” (what we look like as a still image) really does differ from moment to moment (and that is, after all, what the camera captures – a moment that lasts the length of time the shutter is open) but then these moments do not appear to be accurate reflections of reality as we perceive it. –

“Photographs do not simply capture reality. It is a photographic reality: spatial dimensions are reduced to a surface.” (Christmann 2008, p. 2-3). – Christmann, G.B. (2008). The Power of Photographs of Buildings in the Dresden Urban Discourse: Towards a Visual Discourse Analysis. FORUM : QUALITATIVE SOCIAL RESEARCH, 9(3).  

History of the camera phone:

The Camera Phone was invented on June 11, 1997, by Philippe Kahn when his daughter Sophie was born. Kahn integrated a miniature camera into a Motorola cell phone and, as his wife Sonia Lee Kahn was in labor, broadcast pictures of the newborn baby around the world. The camera phone became the founding vision for LightSurf Technologies, now owned by Verisign. In Japan the first camera phones were developed for working professionals who wanted to keep an image of their children with them wherever they went and as they worked. The user interface was designed to be simple so that novices and children could also use the feature. The designers felt it was important to have the child’s photograph displayed on the cellphone as accurately as possible.–

Everywhere you go these days, there are people with camera-phones – many of us record, document, and upload the minutae of our lives. But, ultimately, should we be doing it just because we can? – /

These days, the very idea of a mobile without camera or video facility seems absurd. They’re more portable than most digital cameras and, more importantly, offer faster connection with the internet, which is a key consideration in this age of virtual   presenteeism.  -/

Thanks in part to camera-phones, we’re all reporters now. And that idea is going to have some pretty radical consequences, especially for police officers. Think about it: only an idiot goes to a demonstration without a camera or a camera-phone nowadays.” He cites the Guardian investigation into the death of Ian Tomlinson, a passer-by at the G20 protests in London last year, who was shown to have been beaten to the ground by police by means of films made by demonstrators’ mobile phones.

First, the camera phone is tiny, and thus relatively easy to slip into situations where authorities want to stop unofficial images or films of an event being taken. Second, and much more importantly, the images and films we take with them can be spread around the world in seconds. Our experiences can now travel freely across borders.

In her 1977 book, On Photography , essayist Susan Sontag wrote, “In America, the photographer is not simply the person who records the past, but the one who invents
it.” Indeed, photographs can alter and magnify historical events, as the author of the image can literally manipulate the lens with which viewers see the world. In fact, every choice a photographer makes in taking a picture involves subjectivity; from the camera angle (looking up, looking down, eye level), to the framing (what to include and what to leave out), to the moment of exposure (when to shoot and when to wait). With the availability and prevalence of software capable of sophisticated image alteration, the issue of photo manipulation provides a timely opportunity in the social studies classroom to assist students in “reading” the images that inundate them in their daily lives by dispelling an old cliché: “The camera never lies.” –

While this example of photo manipulation required skilled artists and a time-consuming process of physically altering the image, current digital image editing tools, often packaged free with the purchase of a digital camera or scanner, make the process relatively easy even for children to accomplish and to achieve similar results. As a result, amateurs often post doctored images on the Web to lampoon or advance a point of view (see images of President Bush at

and South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle at While humorous and often used for comedic purposes, the potential for more damaging fabrications is clear and troubling.

Recent digital technologies make photo manipulation more efficient, less costly and more exact, but it is important to note that there is a long history of doctoring images. In 1920, during the Bolshevik Revolution, a photograph was taken of Vladimir Lenin atop a platform, speaking to a crowd in front of the Bolshoi Theater. In the original photo from 1920 (see Figure 1), Lenin’s comrade Leon Trotsky can be seen standing beside the platform on Lenin’s left side. When power struggles within the revolution forced Trotsky outoftheparty7yearslaterhewas“retouched”outofthepicture(Figure2). Using paint, razors, and airbrushes, Soviet photo artists altered the historical record by literally removing Trotsky from the picture (Curry, 2001).

Figure 1. Lenin with Trotsky at the Bolshoi Theater, 1920. (Click on the camera icon to display this photo linked from the U.S. News Web site:

Figure 2. Lenin without Trotsky at the Bolshoi Theater, 1920 (retouched 1927). (Click on the camera icon to display this photo linked from the U.S. News Web site: 

But he learned also that the factuality of his pictures, no matter how convincing and unarguable, was a different thing than the reality itself. Much of the reality was filtered out in the static little black and white image, and some of it was exhibited with an unnatural clarity, an exaggerated importance. The subject and the picture were not the same thing, although they would afterwards seem so. It was the photographer’s problem to see not simply the reality before him but the still invisible picture, and to make his choices in terms of the latter.

This was an artistic problem, not a scientific one, but the public believed that the photograph could not lie, and it was easier for the photographer if he believed it too, or pretended to. Thus he was likely to claim that what our eyes saw was an illusion, gye