Project 5: The Manipulated image

I looked at the image by Peter Kennard and laughed. Apparently people believed it was an selfie image of Tony Blair with a burning oilfield behind. I am no fan of Tony Blair but I cannot believe that people could be so naive. I think it illustrates Kennard’s opinion of Tony Blair and as such is extremely eye catching. But a true image – really….

Perhaps I am just sceptical about all images today. Every image can be manipulated so that is exactly what photographers do if they don’t like the outcome of a photo shoot. Except of course if they are commissioned to make a ‘true’ representation of what they see or if competition or contract rules specify that manipulation is not acceptable.

I find some manipulated images are true works of art. The site 121 clicks (1, 2 and 3) has some amazing images

Magnum has the following manipulation regulations in their Terms and Conditions

Cropping and Image Manipulation. Magnum Photos was founded on the ideal that photographs must not be altered, cropped or manipulated in any form without permission from Magnum Photos. The rights to alter any photograph rests with the photographer and Magnum Photos will seek their opinion in any alteration request. Today, many alterations are granted by Magnum photographers, but it is necessary to submit a request before the image is reproduced as this may affect the terms of the license and result in an additional charge on top of any agreed usage fee.

In the FAQ section of Magnums site their response to manipulation is as follows:

What is Magnum’s policy regarding the cropping of photographs?

It is popularly thought that Magnum does not allow any of its photographers’ work to be cropped, but this is not the whole truth. Certainly, Magnum has a strong association with the respect for the photograph as the photographer made it and selected it. Photographs available from Magnum have usually been very carefully edited: the Magnum archive contains images chosen by the photographers in the context of their own integrity and values, and the archive is not a visual resource for picture users’ general chopping and changing. But Magnum represents the copyright holders who are the individual photographers and while many of the photographers do not wish their work to be cropped, others are more flexible. It may depend on the photograph in question. Magnum’s policy is that photographs cannot be cropped (or copied, or reproduced) without prior consent. So in circumstances where someone using photographs wishes to crop them, they should contact their local Magnum office for consent before doing so.


  1. Creative Digital Photo Manipulation Art Works – 2015. Creative Digital Photo Manipulation Art Works – [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 15 December 2015].
  2. Digital Photo Manipulation – Incredible Examples – 2015. Digital Photo Manipulation – Incredible Examples – [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 15 December 2015].
  3. 75 Most Creative Digital Photo Manipulation Art Works – 2015. 75 Most Creative Digital Photo Manipulation Art Works – [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 15 December 2015].

Instead of using double exposures or printing from double negatives we now have the technology available to us to make these changes in post-production, allowing for quite astonishing results.
Use digital software such as Photoshop to create a composite image which visually appears to be a documentary photograph but which could never actually be.
To make a composite image you need to consider your idea and make the required amount of images to join together.
Upload the images and decide which image you’ll use as your main image and background. Use the magic wand to select sections of image from the others you wish to move into your background image. Copy via layer and drag into the background. Do this repeatedly until you have all the pieces of your puzzle in place.
In order to make it more convincing, use the erase tool on each layer to keep the
edges soft and to create a better illusion. Be aware of perspective and light and
shadows for the most effective results.

I chose an image of a wing of a Ryanair plane which I took from the interior of the plane, as background.


I then took an photo of my husband


I had him sit on a stool in the way I wanted him to ‘appear’ to sit on the wing of the plane

greenveined white butterfly_sm

Then I located this image of a greenveined white butterfly I took this summer in ireland.

I added the three together to make the manipulated image below


I added the text for fun…

Read the section entitled ‘The Real and the Digital’ in Wells, Liz. (2009) Photography:
A Critical Introduction (4th edition). Abingdon: Routledge, pp.73–75. You’ll find this
on the student website.
Does digital technology change how we see photography as truth? Consider both
sides of the argument and make some notes in your learning log.

First I wanted to define truth – what is it exactly. One definition I found was the following:


  • the quality or state of being true

  • : a statement or idea that is true or accepted as true

Now when we apply it to photography what does it mean. Wikipedia states:

The truth claim of photography is the term used by Tom Gunning to describe the prevalent belief that traditional photographs accurately depict reality. He states that the truth claim relies upon both the indexicality and visual accuracy of photographs.

Liz Wells(1) claims that Rolan Barthes’ influential conception of the nature of a photography is that it is the result of an event in the world. This event has left a trace which is the photograph. The photograph is a record or sign of what happened.

However as Wells admits photographs have always been manipulated. It is just the ease with which this can be done today that has changed. Photographers have used various techniques to ‘alter’ the image to create what they want. Even in cases where they were supposed to be recording actual events.

It is not the ‘fault’ of digital technology that we regard photographs as being less true today than before. In fact we are more aware of the possibilities of alteration and would be more inclined to check for alteration with recent photographs. If an image of an event is presented as true to the event there are so many ways of crosschecking today that it would be more difficult to get away with presenting something as true, which had been altered. An example is in the World Press Photographer of the Year 2014. Twenty percent of the finalists were disqualified for having altered their photos beyond what was acceptable in the rules. The 2013 World Press Photograph of the year was also investigated for manipulation but apparently the level of manipulation in that case was acceptable.

Wells quotes the french social theorist, Jean Baudrillard, commenting on the nature of the real and the authentic in our time

…it is pointless to posit an external reality that is then pictured, described and represented.

…everything is constructed and our sense of the world is mediated by complex technologies, that are themselves a major constituent of our reality.

In conclusion I would say it is not digital technology alone which changes how we see photography as truth it is our acceptance that because we have so many tools available for altering our representation of an event  we will be automatically sceptical as to the authenticity of any image.



  1. Wells, L, 2009. Photography: A Critical Introduction. 4th ed. Abingdon: Routledge.

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