What is photo credibility and why does it matter?
Since the advent of digital photography in 1998, we have been photographing
the world at an unprecedented pace. But digital photography has spawned new issues
with photo credibility. It is becoming easier and easier to alter our photos, and
we do it often, for a wide range of usually well-meaning reasons. However, will
future generations see our photos as a trustworthy record of reality?
It is important to remember that original photos are already limited and imperfect reflections of reality. Reality is a rich, immersive experience incapable of comprehended in its entirety. We all experience reality through a mesh of diverse filters, which include our limited human senses, our knowledge and experience, our emotions, and our personal and social belief systems. And when a photographer shoots a photo, s/he adds further filters to this list such as his or her choice of subject, angle and camera settings.
All the same, photos are one of the few reliable tools we have for recording important information about our world. A photo can never recreate all of a real moment or experience, but it can represent a significant piece of it. And almost by definition, photos will represent the most relevant parts of our experience of the world.
Photos give us a record of personal events, create our family histories, help us relive earlier times and refresh our memories of loved ones. For us as a society, photos provide evidence of human actions, the workings of nature, and inform our collective decision-making processes.
Given that the line between a photo and the reality it captures is already known to be tenuous, it behoves us to preserve a clear understanding of the extent to which our photos remain unchanged from their own reality.
There is often great value in a photographer’s artistic vision of the meaning of a moment. And there is no reason a photographer shouldn’t be free to create an enhanced photo if s/he wishes. But at present there is a great deal of photo tinkering, and little or no information available to us about that tinkering.
If we are to continue to see our photos as useful records of our real world, it is vital that address the current issues with photo integrity. To start, we need to do two things: identify if and how our photos are altered from their originals, and preserve the original photos as well. Perhaps then we can count on our photos to not be any further from reality than they have to be.
These sites can provide you with more information on the ongoing developments in photo credibility and preservation: