Truth in the Eye of the Beholder

To be sure, photo manipulation has long done away with the adage, seeing is believing. And it didn’t take the invention of Photoshop for governments, including that of Joseph Stalin, to apply rudimentary image alteration techniques to make a picture tell a different story than was first recorded onto film.

And yet, when the National Enquirer first came out with the account of catching John Edwards at the Beverly Hilton, we at CJR kept asking, where are the photos?

Soon enough, the Enquirer produced this blurry photo and our instant, collective skepticism about the photo’s authenticity made it clear how misplaced our original clamoring actually was.

And so it’s topical that Newsweek offers up this Q & A with John Long, the ethics committee chair for the National Press Photographers Association about the nature of photojournalism in the hyper-digital age.

(Strangely enough, Newsweek’s peg for the piece is the Montauk Monster.)

Long doesn’t really offer any help for navigating the brave, not-so-new, world of imagery, authenticity, meaning, and trust between those who provide the images and those who consume them, but the piece does remind us that our hunger for photos might, in the end, be quenched by empty, unsatisfactory, inconclusive, calories.

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Katia Bachko is on staff at The New Yorker.