A discussion arose on another blog this week about the morality of digital manipulation of images via Photoshop or any other imaging software. The debate comes at the end of long, and complicated, contract renewals with those who sell my photographs to publications and ad agencies.
Alteration of photos has been an issue of concern in photojournalism ever since Mathew Brady took his famous, but staqed, photos of the Civil War. As a longtime member of the National Press Photographers Association, I subscribe to the organization’s code of ethics and support its position on the alteration of digital photographs which states, in part:
As journalists we believe the guiding principle of our profession is accuracy; therefore, we believe it is wrong to alter the content of a photograph in any way that deceives the public.
I’ve left the day-to-day practice of photojournalism and opened a photo studio and I do use digital manipulation on photographs for artistic purposes but always tell the customer if a photo has been altered from its original content. But I still shoot photos for publication and my clients have to trust that what I turn into them is an accurate representation of the event. Likewise, when I post a photograph to Blue Ridge Muse, the reader deserves to know whether it is, or is not, an altered image.
As a mentor to young photographers through the NPPA, I try to teach them is that their good name is everything and they should work like hell to protect it. I’m extremely sensitive whenever I feel someone has maligned my name or misrepresented my intentions. Sometimes I overreact but I’ve found it is best to be too cautious rather than not cautious enough.
I recently discovered a number of my photos have appeared on other web sites either without attribution or attributed to someone else. Because of this, I’ve had to add code to this web site and others to prevent downloading of my photographs. In addition, my photographic rep in New York tells me that, contractually, I can no longer post photos to my web log if they are also listed in the catalogs of those who legitimately sell my photographs for commercial services. Sometimes, I will shoot a photo for Muse and then submit it to my reps for commercial consideration. If it is accepted, the representing agencies then have exclusive rights for use in the catalogs and I must, by contract, not use the image elsewhere while it is offered for sale. I have an extensive photo library from 40 years of shooting and, sometimes, I dig a photo out of my files and use it to illustrate a point, forgetting that the photo is also offered for sale elsewhere. Because of this, a number of photos have been removed in recent days from Blue Ridge Muse as well as Blue Ridge Photography and Blue Ridge Creative. I have so much fun doing this blog that I sometimes forget that I also shoot pictures for a living and must adhere to the business practices of those who represent my interests in the photographic marketplace.