On the Role of Manipulation in (Digital) Photographic Representations

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Pinni B building, lecture hall B1097 (address: Kanslerinrinne 1, 1st fl.)

University of Tampere
Institute for Advanced Social Research (IASR) in cooperation with the New Social Research Programme (NSR)

Speakers Series 2017-2018, Spring

Associate Professor Asko Lehmuskallio, NSR
On the Role of Manipulation in (Digital) Photographic Representations

With digitization of news work, including increasing reliance on near-real time connections to the Internet, questions of authenticity of journalistic images have resurfaced. Common questions are: Can we trust images shown to us in networked publics? Or the images that we ourselves forward on social media for others to see?

In order to counter ’pictorial fraud,’ especially press photographers need to adhere to strict guidelines in how photographs are shot, edited and published, while photorealistic computer-generated images are increasingly used in other areas of visual communication. In recent years, photographers have been publicly fired due to removing or adding content to images, while ‘non-manipulated’ pictures published may again have been changed at a later stage of their circulation. ‘Manipulation’ has become something to guard against, and ‘non-manipulation’ almost a guarantee for “an accurate and fair representation of the scene […] witnessed so the audience is not misled” (World Press Photo Contest Code of Ethics).

This talk discusses tensions that arise from a continued focus on ‘non-manipulation’ of camera-based photography and computational possibilities for photorealistic rendering. First, I present empirical research conducted together with Jukka Häkkinen and Janne Seppänen (accepted, 2017). We were interested in finding out if professional photographers and editors can distinguish photographs from photorealistic computer-generated images by looking at them on a screen. Second, I discuss implications that arise from the results by focusing on the usefulness of thinking about the camera as a sensor, as suggested by some software developers studied earlier (published, 2016). Taken together, these studies call for a need to develop a visual literacy that explicitly takes material mediations of visual presentations into account and grounds the use of digital photography among particular communities of practice. While some communities of practice seek for guards against manipulation, on closer scrutiny it shows that the careful and correct handling of photo technology is an accomplishment in its own right, assured by codes of conduct, education and peer review.

What is the Speakers Series of the University of Tampere?
 - The Speakers Series is a series of Studia Generalia Lectures in the  Study of Society organized weekly by the University of Tampere Institute for Advanced Social Research (IASR) in cooperation with the New Social  Research Programme (NSR). The lectures are given by the Research Fellows  as well as the distinguished guests of the IASR and the NSR. For the  programme, please check the IASR website www.uta.fi/iasr/lectures/.



Additional information

Research Secretary Marjukka Virkajärvi, +358 50 318 6697, Marjukka.Virkajarvi@uta.fi