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Photo Tampering

As people often say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Photographs can often give audiences a clearer, more personalized view of historic events. They can be invaluable tools for journalism, as they can bring atrocities to life in a way that mere words cannot.

Hearing about the horrors of a concentration camp, for instance, is one thing. Being forced to visually confront the corpses of starved and tortured victims is a great deal harder to ignore. Yet, pictures, like people, can lie. Relying too heavily on photographic evidence can be a mistake. Pictures have been altered since the time of Abraham Lincoln. Indeed, one famous picture of Lincoln is actually a photograph of Lincoln’s head, merged with the body of Senator John Calhoun.

Meanwhile, tyrannical leaders such as Adolph Hitler and Josef Stalin routinely removed figures from photographs when they were displeased with them. Hitler even had infamous Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels removed from one photograph. Italian tyrant Benito Mussolini also used photo tampering to make himself look stronger than he was. He removed a horse handler from one photo, in order to make himself look “more heroic.”

Photo tampering had made the news more recently as well. One widely circulated photo, for instance, shows former Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, wielding a gun, dressed in a patriotic bikini. According to Connor and Farid, the image is actually a composite of Palin’s head and another person’s body. Meanwhile, some publications have used different lighting techniques that have made eyes appear unnatural and give the target an evil looking appearance. Today, photo shopping has become so prevalent, that imaging companies such as Adobe have begun looking into ways to help consumers verify that photographic data is accurate.