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article imageOp-Ed: Lie of the camera

By Alexander Baron     Jul 27, 2011 in World
It has often been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Unfortunately, those words can include fake, fraud, misleading, and airbrushed, as the ASA pointed out today, but the practice is anything but new.
Although the Advertising Standards Authority is not a statutory body, it has teeth, and bites regularly. In 2009, 2,397 advertisements were changed or withdrawn as a result of its actions. Most of the ASA’s adjudications are fairly routine, but big companies are often as untrustworthy as small ones or lone “cowboy” operators.
Its most recent clutch of adjudications includes negative findings against two advertisements by the cosmetics giant L’Oreal over proven claims of airbrushing. Though the faces of Julia Roberts and Christie Turlington hardly need improving, that is what happened when they appeared in the company’s advertising campaign. The Scottish MP Jo Swinson brought the complaint, and in its adjudication against L’Oreal (UK) Ltd (Lancôme), the ASA commented:
“While Lancôme provided detail on the techniques they used, we noted that we had not been provided with information that allowed us to see what effect those enhancements had on the final image. We acknowledged the pictures supplied from laboratory testing were evidence that the product was capable of improving skin’s appearance, but on the basis of the evidence we had received we could not conclude that the ad image accurately illustrated what effect the product could achieve, and that the image had not been exaggerated by digital post production techniques. We therefore concluded the ad was misleading.”
While the complainant was clearly satisfied with this action, she has other, less parochial concerns about the effects of airbrushing photos of models in order to promote make up and similar products, and in a TV interview with the BBC Breakfast news programme, she said young girls were under pressure from the advertising industry to attempt to conform to these idealised images; she suggested too that the rise of eating disorders amongst the young could be linked to such imagery, and used the classic line “...just because they all might be doing it, it doesn’t make it right”.
In the era of Photoshop and similar products, even children or semi-computer literate technophobes can produce fairly passable airbrushed photos and even quite sophisticated forgeries with a few hours research and practice, but the manipulation and misrepresentation of photography is almost as old as the art itself, and it should always be born in mind that photography is an art, not a science. The American spirit photographer William Mumler was hard at work in the 1860s, and then there was the case of the Cottingley Fairies in the early 20th Century, an affair that was notorious and laughable in equal measure.
Atrocity photographs have often been faked, not only in war time, and many photographs of alleged brutality – by the police or otherwise – have prosaic explanations. Take for example this one.
This is the face of convicted murderer Satpal Ram whose supporters mounted an intensive campaign to have this “miscarriage of justice” rectified. Ram stabbed a stranger to death in a drunken frenzy over a triviality, gloated over him as he lay dying, then fled the scene of the crime with the murder weapon in his hand. Though he was eventually paroled, it wasn’t long before he was recalled to prison for breaching his life licence. This photograph was circulated by his supporters with two implications – one that this was what his victim did to him; the other, that he was the victim of brutality by prison officers. Though this photograph was taken in prison, Ram was a disruptive and at times violent prisoner, and there is little doubt that he brought these injuries on himself.
The photograph below it, of Donald Neilson, was taken shortly after his arrest, but it was not the police or the police alone who inflicted these injuries on him. Nielsen had murdered five people, and was overpowered during a fierce struggle, so like Ram he had only himself to blame, indeed more so.
Sometimes, genuine photographs can look like or be represented as fakes, by honest people as well as by charlatans and cranks. A case in point is the supposedly fake photograph of Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Then there is that hardy perennial of all suckers and cranks, the Kennedy Assassination.
When he was confronted with this photograph, Lee Harvey Oswald, the lone nut who assassinated President John F. Kennedy, claimed it was a fake. Oswald of course never lived to proclaim to a jury that he was a patsy, but even though it was proved he owned the murder weapon, and his wife Marina told how she took the photo at his behest, there are still those who refuse, and always will refuse to face the facts in the weight of overwhelming evidence; in their eyes, only a government agent or perhaps a globalist shill would believe otherwise.
Finally, a little trick that is often played subconsciously, this is the face of Heather Mills, the ex-wife of the world renowned songwriter Paul McCartney. For some unfathomable reason she is one of those people the tabloids love to hate, and was at one time only marginally less reviled in some quarters than Casey Anthony. Miss Mills is an amputee, in 1993, she suffered horrific injuries in a road accident, and among other things her left leg had to be amputated below the knee. It may be that in her personal life she has many faults, as do most of us, but if the tabloids paid as much attention to her charity work and campaigning as they did to her supposed human failings, they would not take such unflattering photographs of her.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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