I am directing a research project on “The Integrity of the Image” for World Press Photo. We trailed this during the sessions on manipulation at the Awards Days in April, and the terms of reference have now been finalised.
To undertake research in order to compile as comprehensive a map as possible of the current practices and accepted standards relating to the manipulation of still images in photojournalism and documentary photography world-wide, focusing predominantly on the post-processing of these images. This research will be published so as to encourage debate on the integrity of the image, and inform World Press Photo about issues relating to manipulation relevant to its annual contest.
- What forms of manipulation are relevant to the integrity of the image? In addition to post-processing of negatives, RAW files or unprocessed JPEGs, it could also includes the framing, cropping, selection, captioning and contextualisation of images, among other issues. Should these dimensions also be considered and, if so, how?
- Is manipulation generally a growing problem? If so, how and why?
- Is post-processing itself a problem, or is post-processing a problem only when certain levels of changes are made? If so, how are the legitimate levels known or identified?
- What ethical guidelines and protocols relevant to the integrity of the image are followed by media organisations in different countries?
- What ethical guidelines relevant to the integrity of the image are promoted by professional media associations in different countries?
- Are there national, regional and cultural differences in the ethical guidelines, accepted standards, and current practices relevant to the integrity of the image? Are there any points of consensus on manipulation regardless of geographical or cultural differences?
- Are there different norms with regard to manipulation in different image genres? Are the norms for news and documentary the same as those for nature, sports, and portraits (staged and observed), or are their differences?
- What are the most effective means for the detection of manipulation?
- What sanctions exist with the media industry after manipulation is detected?
- What rules exist within major international photo contests relating to the integrity of the image?
The primary research will include interviews with directors of photography, senior photo editors and relevant media executives at quality news organisations and international wire services; interviews with directors and/or relevant staff at photography agencies; interviews with directors and/or relevant staff at national media and photojournalism associations; interviews with digital forensics experts; interviews with camera manufacturers’ sensor/software experts; and the collection of codes of ethics relating to the integrity of the image from media organisations and professional associations world-wide. The secondary research includes online and library research for existing scholarship on ethical debates relevant to the integrity of the image.
The research will be as global as is practically possible, and will aim to interview people and examine documents from at least nineteen countries: United States, China, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, Germany, India, France, Russia, Brazil, Egypt, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Denmark, Mexico, Argentina, Japan, and Indonesia.
We will present the findings in October/November this year. I would welcome any feedback on the project’s aim, questions and scope. And I would very much welcome any contributions of ideas or references.